Family of Monroe man killed by police files lawsuit against city, department and hospital

Dustin and Brandi Booth. Dustin Booth was died in a officer-involved shooting Feb. 11 in Monroe. SUBMITTED

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Dustin and Brandi Booth. Dustin Booth was died in a officer-involved shooting Feb. 11 in Monroe. SUBMITTED

MONROE — The wife of Dustin Booth, a man shot and killed by Monroe police officers, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city, police chief, police officers, a doctor and the hospital where the 35-year-old man was treated for mental health issues before the incident on Feb. 11.

Attorney Konrad Kircher filed the “medical malpractice, civil rights, wrongful death, survivorship and disability action challenges” suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

The suit alleges “defendants’ failure to properly diagnose and treat Dustin L. Booth while he was hospitalized at Atrium Medical Center from Feb.1 to Feb 7, 2022; defendants’ unconstitutional stop and seizure of (Booth), an individual whom defendants knew to be having a mental health crisis on Feb. 11, 2022; defendants’ use of excessive force against (Booth) which ultimately resulted in his death; and defendants’ discrimination against (Booth) based on his disability.”

Booth’s widow, Brandi, and administratrix of Dustin’s estate, filed the lawsuit to secure fair compensation for the “pain and suffering endured by Dustin prior to his death and for the loss of income, benefits, society, support, services, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel, instruction, training, and education, and prospective inheritance,” according to the complaint.

Named as defendants are the City of Monroe, Dr. Jonathan Lazzara, DO, medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of psychiatric patients, Atrium Medical Center, Monroe Police Chief Robert Buchanan, Monroe Police Lt. Mike Rosenbalm, Monroe Police Capt. Brian Curlis, Monroe Police Sgt. Caleb Payne, Monroe Police Officer Fred Doughman, Monroe Police Officer Aaron Ledford and Monroe Police Officer Drew Aspacher.

In March, following an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a Butler County grand jury had declined to indict five Monroe officers in Booth’s death.

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Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser stated while announcing the grand jury results that, “Using lethal force by the Monroe police to stop the lethal threat of force directed against them was justified and appropriate.”

Kircher said after the grand jury findings were released, the Booth family would file a federal lawsuit against the officers and the department.

Booth was taken to Atrium on Feb. 1 after several weeks of “bizarre” behavior. He was taken from the home in handcuffs without incident by police after a crisis intervention specialist determined he needed to be hospitalized, according to the lawsuit.

While at Atrium and under the care of Lazzara and others, they “negligently” failed to administer “essential testing” concerning the extent of Booth’s dependence on substances and “failed to properly diagnose Dustin with cannabis use disorder or counsel him on ceasing to utilize the vape pen upon discharge,” the complaint alleges.

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“In fact, when Dustin was discharged, (Brandi Booth) was told that Atrium could not keep him any longer because he was not a threat to himself or others, and Dustin left without any scheduled follow-up mental health treatment or education on his proper diagnosis. (Brandi Booth) was ultimately told by Atrium personnel to call the police again if there were further incidents so that Dustin could then be ‘probated,’ meaning held by mental health care providers under the order of the probate court,” the complaint states.

The February incident

The complaint states on Feb. 11, Booth’s wife called police stating he was a danger to himself and others after seeing erratic behavior from him, including throwing money out the window of his new truck. Police encountered Booth in his vehicle and he drove home.

For the next five hours, officers remained in the perimeter trying to get Booth to come out, “eventually, the police elected to withdraw from the area and conspire to arrest Dustin. Buchanan, Rosenbalm, and Curlis (who had been at the Booth home that afternoon), all supervisors, met back at headquarters. During this meeting, they developed a plan to execute a high-risk traffic stop of Dustin if and when they could get him to leave the house,” the complaint states. It adds the officers all knew that (Booth) was a lawful concealed-carry gun owner and experiencing a mental health crisis.

Booth’s friend visited the home and was in communication with police without Booth’s knowledge as part of the plan. Eventually, the friend was able to drive Booth away from the house. He told police Booth had a gun.

“At the time the traffic stop was initiated, there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe (Booth) had committed any crime,” the complaint states. That traffic stop occurred at Ohio 63 and New Garver Road.

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Booth exited the vehicle and walked away from officers, and one of the officers said “don’t fight him, don’t fight him’, but Doughman, released the K-9 that was unsuccessful in taking Booth to the ground, according to the complaint.

“Doughman immediately charged (Booth), an individual whom he knew was experiencing a mental health crisis and carrying a weapon, and went “hands-on.”

Kircher states in the complaint that as Doughman grabbed Booth. Booth can be heard on body camera saying, “Listen to me, I don’t want to hurt nobody.” Doughman thereafter proceeded to throw Dustin to the ground.

The force used by Doughman against Dustin was excessive and used in the absence of any reasonable suspicion or probable cause that he had committed any crime, according to Kircher.

“When (Booth) got up from the ground, he was holding a handgun removed from his clothing and was then shot multiple times by Doughman, Payne, and three of Payne’s subordinates. As a result of the gunshots, (Booth) eventually died, but only after telling the officers he loved them,” the complaint states.

Brandi Booth is seeking a judgment in excess of $75,000, jointly and severally, for compensatory damages to be proved at trial, punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, costs and all other relief to which she may be lawfully entitled.

Buchanan declined to comment stating, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

Susan D. Howard, Premier Health (Atrium) spokeswoman said, “it is our standard protocol that we do not comment on any open civil suit filings or litigation.”

The BCI investigation revealed on Feb. 11 Monroe Police Department was called in because of concerns that Booth may endanger himself and others with a firearm he was seen to possess, according to Gmoser.

“The Monroe Police Department made the tactical decision not to escalate Mr. Booth’s condition and did not forcibly confront Mr. Booth where he was isolated in his home alone after failing to comply with police orders to stop a vehicle he was driving when the police were informed of his conduct. The home of Mr. Booth is in close proximity to neighbors and any confrontation there was seen as endangering the civilian population.

Late in the day, a friend of Booth interceded, Gmoser said. The man gave Booth a ride away from the neighborhood and he was able to inform the police via text that Booth was armed with a pistol.

“At a location in Monroe near state Route 63, the police directed the driver to stop and Booth exited the vehicle with his .45 caliber, fully loaded, revolver in a holster over his shoulder and continued to walk away after the police directed him to stop. He did not, but with both hand (s) in the air as seen by a witness nearby. A police canine was directed to intercept Mr. Booth, but was unsuccessful in stopping him. There upon, Mr. Booth was physically confronted by a Monroe police officer as four other Monroe officers converged,“ Gmoser said noting the BCI investigation.

“Both the confronting officer and Mr. Booth went down to the ground, and as Mr. Booth stood up with his pistol in hand, he pointed it in the direction of the five Monroe police officers, all of whom immediately fired their service weapons to stop the assault. This action was captured on a police officer body camera and is definitive of the moment before shots were fired. Mr. Booth was struck multiple times and he survived a short time before he died at a local hospital. Using lethal force by the Monroe police to stop the lethal threat of force directed against them was justified and appropriate.”

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Body camera videos from the officers involved, Sgt. Caleb Payne and officers Michael Doughman, Skylar Halsey, Micah Day and Austin Whitt, were released by Monroe police. The nighttime videos, which are shaky from officers’ activity, appear to show that Booth had a gun in his hand when the officers fired.

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Flowers lay at the site where Dustin Booth died after he was shot during an incident with Monroe police, which took pace near Garver Road and Ohio 63. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Flowers lay at the site where Dustin Booth died after he was shot during an incident with Monroe police, which took pace near Garver Road and Ohio 63. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Flowers lay at the site where Dustin Booth died after he was shot during an incident with Monroe police, which took pace near Garver Road and Ohio 63. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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