Tremayne Flythe’s mother is seeking justice for the death of her son in 2009; and despite an earlier dismissal of her case, a federal court has granted her another chance.
Although police in Washington, DC claim that Flythe assaulted them with a knife, forcing them to shoot him in self-defense, evidence and witness accounts indicate that he may not have been armed after all.
The shooting occurred on December 26 after the owner of a liquor store reported that a man with dreadlocks walking a dog threw a bottle at his establishment. Officer Angel Vasquez was searching for the suspect, and believed he had found him when he came across Flythe.
According to Vasquez, Flythe drew a knife from his jacket and stabbed him. He then flung Flythe away, pulled out his gun and started to fire. When his gun jammed, Vasquez reportedly ran away.
Another officer, Travis Eagan, was listening to the commotion over his radio, and rushed to the scene. He claims that after a chase, Flythe turned around wielding a knife. Flythe reportedly told him to drop the weapon, then shot and killed him when he did not comply.
According to witnesses, however, Flythe never had a knife, and his palms were open as he faced Eagan.
And although Vasquez was indeed stabbed, the knife did not have Flythe’s fingerprints on it.
After the shooting, both officers were placed on administrative leave with pay, as is department policy.
Flythe’s mother tried to sue over the incident in district court, but Judge Rudolph Contreras dismissed the claim. He ruled that Vasquez could not be guilty of assault because he never seized Flythe, saying, "The fact that Mr. Flythe was ultimately able to escape unscathed from the altercation with Officer Vazquez belies any contention that he was 'seized' by Officer Vazquez."
The judge also ruled that Eagan was not accountable because he feared for his life "whether or not he actually ever saw the knife himself (or whether or not the knife found near Mr. Flythe's body actually belonged to him).
However, the federal court ruled that Flythe’s mother does have a case, and she now may try to sue again.