Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against City of Greenville & Officer Involved in Killing Unarmed Mentally Ill Man

Feb 03, 2021

Raleigh, N.C. (February 3, 2021) – Today, Raleigh-based law firm Edwards Kirby, LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sean Rambert, Sr., and Danielle Rambert for the wrongful death of their 23-year-old son, Sean Rambert, Jr., an unarmed African-American man who was gunned down by Greenville Police Officer David Brandon Johnson in the early morning hours of July 9, 2019. The lawsuit alleges both Officer Johnson and the City of Greenville were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Rambert’s civil rights, grossly negligent and are directly responsible for his wrongful death.

Sean Rambert, Jr., a native of Greenville, was an honor student and talented athlete who took an active role in his church community. He was a beloved son and brother. One of his proudest achievements was graduating from Farmville Central High School with an academic scholarship to attend Chowan College. After completing his freshman year at college, and in response to rising tuition costs, Sean returned home to attend Pitt Community College and worked full-time.

In 2017, Sean was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Despite the difficulties that can be associated with the illness, he was not a violent person and had no history of violent or criminal behavior.
In the early morning of July 9, 2019, Officer Johnson wrongfully shot and killed Sean. Officer Johnson was responding to a dispatch call of suspected breaking and entering. Despite the darkness, Officer Johnson failed to illuminate the area with either his flashlight or the additional flashlight equipped to his gun or identify himself properly.

Officer Johnson reported seeing a black male yelling and approaching him quickly – this was Sean. Officer Johnson recognized that Sean was unarmed and may have had some mental disability. Nevertheless, Johnson never made any effort to identify himself as a police officer or to deescalate the situation. After shouting at Sean to get on the ground, Johnson shot Sean three times without warning and without attempting any kind of de-escalation or less-lethal force measure. Johnson then tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground where he shot Sean three more times. Johnson then shot at Sean again while Sean was still on the ground, struggling to sit up from the injuries inflicted by the first three volleys of gunshots.

Sean was hit with a total of seven bullets before being handcuffed on the ground. Body camera footage shows how he suffered immensely for several minutes while his lungs filled with four cups of blood and he bled out. Sean did not have any kind of weapon in his possession.

“This was excessive force, plain and simple. Sean’s death could have been prevented had the officer had adequate training and supervision regarding the use of deadly force and the appropriate response to a person in crisis,” stated Edwards Kirby Attorney, Cate Edwards. “Sean was a beloved, contributing member of Pitt County, and to lose his life at the hands of a police officer at such a young age under these preventable, wrongful circumstances is unacceptable.”

The lawsuit alleges that Johnson and the City of Greenville are responsible for Sean’s death, that they violated his civil rights, and were grossly negligent in their actions and omissions in relation to the actual event, as well as in their training, supervision and policies.

The lawsuit asks for damages, including punitive damages, against all defendants for the wrongful death of Sean Michael Rambert Jr.

For more information on Edwards Kirby, LLP, please visit https://www.edwardskirby.com/.

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