HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The sister of Crystal Ragland, an Army veteran whom Huntsville Police shot and killed while responding to a mental distress call in 2019, is suing both the City of Huntsville and two Huntsville police officers in federal court.
The 25-page lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of Ragland’s sister Brandie Robinson, claims there are multiple issues with the Huntsville Police Department, specifically, officer training regarding use of deadly force and the HPD Incident Review Board.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges the city had an “unwritten custom and practice for years prior to the subject May 30, 2019 shooting incident, of refusing to discipline and hold accountable officers who use unconstitutional, excessive and/or unskillful force in the line of duty, whether by shooting or otherwise.”
In the case of Ragland, HPD responded to the Stadium Apartments complex the morning of May 30, 2019. The lawsuit says the apartment manager called 911 and told the operator that Ragland suffered from PTSD, schizophrenia and/or other mental impairments.
Police told News 19 she refused to follow police commands to keep the gun holstered, and the situation was leading up to a moment where she may have fired at the officers. The lawsuit says the officers shot Ragland “within a minute of officers arriving at the apartment.”
The officers believed Ragland had a gun. However, later, police discovered the .45-caliber handgun was a replica.
Ragland, who was seriously injured, later died at the hospital.
A Huntsville Police Department Incident Review Board and the Madison County District Attorney’s Office cleared both officers of any wrongdoing in the shooting.
The lawsuit alleges excessive force and negligence and wantonness against the city of Huntsville and the two officers who responded to the call. The lawsuit also charges that Huntsville has inadequate policy.
One specific example cited by the lawsuit is the 2018 incident where HPD Officer William Darby shot and killed Jeffrey Parker, who had called 911 saying he was suicidal. A jury found Darby guilty of murder earlier this month.
News 19 has reached out to the City of Huntsville for a response to the lawsuit. Kelly Schrimsher, the director of communications for the City of Huntsville, said they haven’t been served with the lawsuit yet. But she also said that, as a rule, the city isn’t allowed to comment on pending litigation.