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Motion seeks dismissal of lawsuit claiming Amherst officers used excessive force in 2017 shooting

Motion seeks dismissal of lawsuit claiming Amherst officers used excessive force in 2017 shooting

A motion to dismiss a lawsuit by a Monroe man convicted of shooting an Amherst County sheriff’s deputy states the actions of law enforcement officers to subdue him were reasonable and not excessive.

Trevor Dawson Ewers, 25, was sentenced in December to 108 years in prison several months after an Amherst County jury found him guilty of two counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, two counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony and a count of aggravated malicious wounding. A judge upheld the jury’s recommended 103-year sentence and imposed another five years from a firearm charge that was handled at a separate trial.

Ewers shot officer Jason Meador with a handgun during a September 2017 late-night traffic stop at the Monroe Post Office’s parking lot, an encounter Commonwealth’s Attorney Lyle Carver said at trial turned into chaos in a matter of seconds.

Ewers, who was intoxicated, stepped out of the vehicle and retrieved a pistol from his pocket, immediately causing a struggle. Deputy Erin Karajankovich, who was conducting the stop, shot Ewers in the shoulder, according to evidence presented at the September 2019 trial in Amherst Circuit Court.

Meador, who survived, was shot in the head and testified at the trial he suffered permanent hearing loss. Both officers testified at trial the event caused them to suffer mental trauma.

At the sentencing, Carver said Ewers did not want to face additional jail time that night and tried to shoot his way out of the situation. Matthew Pack, Ewers’ attorney, argued the shooting was unintentional and the officers overreacted. Ewers testified he didn’t want to hurt anyone and described the incident as a “big misunderstanding.”

The same month the jury convicted him, Ewers filed a lawsuit against the two officers, Amherst Sheriff E.W. Viar and Amherst County seeking $2 million in damages. The suit alleges Karajankovich used excessive force in order to “effect an arrest by unlawfully shooting” Ewers and “egregiously exceeded force necessary.”

The suit alleges the officers engaged in misconduct and gross negligence, failed to properly notify dispatchers of Ewers’ wound in a timely manner and render first aid “after inflicting a life-threatening injury,” and claims Viar failed to properly train Meador and Karajankovich.

The suit alleges Ewers was “abruptly slammed” against a vehicle by Meador and incurred significant medical expenses after he was shot. The complaint also claims Ewers’ constitutional rights were violated.

A motion-to-dismiss response filed Aug. 20 in Amherst Circuit Court by Rosalie Fessier, an attorney representing the two officers and Viar in the litigation, describes the officers’ actions as “heroic efforts” and argues Ewers has failed to state a claim of excessive force. The motion states Ewers still retained the pistol during the struggle with Meador and as a result shot the officer.

“Fortunately, Deputy Karajankovich was able to shoot [Ewers] once in the shoulder before [he] could harm anyone else,” the motion reads.

The motion states the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. “

A police officer’s use of deadly force against a suspect is reasonable where the ‘officer has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others,’” the motion reads.

The motion further states Viar was not involved in the encounter and argues Ewers has not “asserted a claim of supervisory liability nor plead any facts supporting such a claim” against Viar. Jim Guynn, an attorney representing Amherst County, also filed a motion to dismiss on the county’s behalf.

Pack and Fessier could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. A trial date has not been set in the matter.

Ewers remains in the custody of the Amherst Adult Detention Center in Madison Heights, according to online jail records.

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