Civil Rights

Cop shoots man holding underwear, man sues

A Pennsylvania man shot by a cop who thought the man was holding a gun, when the man was actually holding a pair of underwear, filed a federal lawsuit against the agency.

James Weyant was walking down an alley around 4 a.m. when he was shot by an Altoona, Pa., police officer, the Associated Press reports. Weyant said in his lawsuit that he went to go visit a friend, who wasn’t home, and on the way back, the elastic in a pair of Guitar Hero boxer shorts he wore gave out, the Altoona Mirror reports.

Weyant said in his complaint that he initially tried to hold the shorts up with his hand. He couldn’t do that and light a cigarette at the same time, so he took off the shorts. Weyant said he was also wearing a large hoodie, which covered his private area, the AP reports.

A police car stopped next to Weyant, according to his complaint, and an officer got out of the vehicle with his gun drawn. Weyant maintains that the officer shot him without giving any commands, and the two did not exchange words before the Weyant was shot. The bullet hit him in the right armpit and shoulder area, the Altoona Mirror reports.

Weyant’s 1983 Civil Rights Act complaint, filed in Johnstown, Pa., U.S. District Court, alleges that he was shot without “without provocation or justification,” the Mirror article states. Mark Sprouse, the officer who shot Weyant, has been cleared of possible criminal offenses, as well as violating police policy, Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling said.

According to Richard A. Consiglio, the Blair County district attorney, Sprouse was investigating “suspicious actions of a civilian in a dark alley” when he came across Weyant, the paper reports.

Douglas V. Stoehr, Weyant’s lawyer, notes that his client is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds.

“I wouldn’t do this, probably you wouldn’t do it, but some guys wear these long shorts out in public,” Stoehr told the AP. “It’s perfectly acceptable in today’s society.”

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