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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Crime/Public Safety

Family of man killed by Spokane police while unloading his van after camping trip files lawsuit

March 10, 2023 Updated Mon., March 13, 2023 at 1:43 p.m.

The family of a 41-year-old man who was shot and killed by Spokane police last fall while unloading his truck from a camping trip in his front yard filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday.

Robert Bradley’s children and their mother allege negligence and a pattern of police violence.

“His two kids lived with him and he would take them fishing, camping and shooting,” family attorney Rondi Thorp wrote. “He dreamed of being a homeowner and had recently made that dream a reality when he bought his first house in Hillyard.”

Bradley, his children, and his fiancée returned from a Labor Day weekend camping trip on the afternoon of Sept. 9, according to the lawsuit. Bradley began unloading the family’s van, which included guns and other camping gear.

A neighbor, Scott Scott, who previously had conflict over property lines with Bradley saw him unloading the car and carrying a rifle.

The 34-year-old called police just after 6:30 p.m. asking for officers to serve a temporary protection order against Bradley, but no officers were available for the nonemergency call, according to court records and the lawsuit.

Bradley and his fiancée, Sarah McLaughlin, decided to go to Pig Out in the Park not long after arriving home.

At about 10 p.m., Scott called a police sergeant directly to report that Bradley had returned home and again was carrying a gun in his own yard, the lawsuit alleges.

Three Spokane police officers, including Chris Johnson and Trevor Walker, responded to Bradley’s home not long after. Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl declined to comment on the case or lawsuit, noting the police department leaves commenting on pending litigation to their attorneys.

On security camera footage, Bradley can be seen walking out of his house, unlocking his van and leaning in to grab some gear, the lawsuit says. Bradley had been standing by the door for about a minute when officers enter the area on foot without sirens.

Bradley was hard of hearing and wore hearing aids, the lawsuit said. It’s unclear if he was wearing his hearing aids or glasses at the time of the shooting.

Body camera footage from the shooting has not been released to Thorp; however, she did receive a statement from the detective investigating the shooting.

The detective says the body camera footage shows officers approach Bradley and yell “Spokane police.” Bradley responds by looking toward officers and starts to exit his van, at which point “a volley of gunfire” begins, according to the detective’s statement quoted in the lawsuit.

Police shot Bradley nine times within seconds of approaching his van, according to the lawsuit.

Officers shot Bradley less than five seconds after announcing their presence. They did not allow him enough time to register their presence, let alone comply with orders, the lawsuit argues.

A forensic examination of the gun found near Bradley shows it was never fired and no shell casings matching the gun were found at the scene, according to the lawsuit.

Bradley was convicted of possessing stolen property, a felony, in 2004. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to illegally having a firearm and an incendiary device. His firearm rights were restored in 2019.

“Spokane Police Officers approached Mr. Bradley’s home in a negligent, aggressive, and dangerous manner,” the lawsuit alleges.

Spokane police have killed 18 people since 2013, according to Police Scorecard, the lawsuit notes.

Spokane police shot five people in 2022, tied with 2017 for the most police shootings in the last 20 years, according to Spokesman-Review records.

The lawsuit comes months after the city of Spokane reached a $4 million settlement with the family of David Novak, who was killed by police in 2019. Thorp also represented the Novak family.

Thorp noted that, like in the Novak case, officers shot Bradley within seconds of arriving and without taking enough time to evaluate the situation. Both Johnson and Walker were present during the Novak shooting but did not fire their weapons.

Meidl told The Spokesman-Review late last year following the Novak settlement that the Spokane Police Department takes every use of lethal force seriously. The loss of life, he said, is tragic.

The lawsuit asked for unspecified and punitive damages on behalf of Bradley’s children.

“His children were shocked that he was shot by police when he was simply unloading his car,” Thorp wrote in a statement.

“They are devastated to lose their dad so needlessly and they have a hard time trusting that the police are actually supposed to be here to help people, not kill them on their own property.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include Bradley’s criminal history and that his firearms rights were restored.

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