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Family Of Woman Fatally Shot By Dearborn Police File $10 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit

DEARBORN (WWJ) - A $10 million wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the City of Dearborn and an officer who was involved in the fatal shooting of a 31-year-old woman in January.

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday in federal court by Attorney Vince Colella, who represents the family of Janet Wilson.

Wilson was killed Jan. 27 when she was shot by Dearborn Police Officer James Wade following a confrontation, and what Colella called "an ambush-style traffic stop," outside of the Fairlane Town Center mall.

According to the lawsuit, Wilson was departing the Fairlane parking lot when mall security reported a "disorderly mental female" to Dearborn police. The lawsuit alleges that officers, including Wade, responded to the call and surrounded Wilson's vehicle along Hubbard Drive, approaching her "with guns drawn and yelling at her."

Wilson, who was unarmed, remained in her vehicle momentarily before being shot multiple times, resulting in her death, according to the lawsuit. It was the second fatal shooting by a Dearborn police officer in less than two months.

Immediately after the incident, Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said the shooting followed a police chase that began with an incident at JC Penny in the mall. According to witnesses, Wilson "was acting suspiciously" inside the store, security was notified, and security guards followed the woman out into the parking lot. She got into her vehicle, Shaw said — a Chevy HHR — and "almost struck" one of the guard's vehicles while driving away.

After 911 was called, Dearborn police tried to make a traffic stop on Hubbard Drive, but Wilson disregarded the lights and sirens, Shaw said. And when she got stuck in traffic, officers got out of their vehicles and tried to put an end to the pursuit.

"So, as they came and approached the vehicle, the traffic cleared up for her. One of the officers was in front of the car…and as she kind of proceeded on, or tried to hit the gas, and almost struck that officer, one of the officers on the scene fired his duty weapon, striking and killing her," Shaw said.

Although Wilson was unarmed, Shaw noted that "she had a 3,000-pound weapon called a vehicle."

The lawsuit notes the intent "…to establish recognition that the shooting of Wilson was unjust and contrary to established law, to secure compensation for these wrongful acts, and to help end the violence perpetrated by the City of Dearborn against the people of this state."

The lawsuit further states that despite attempts by Colella to obtain the dash-cam video footage of the incident, the city of Dearborn has refused to release it.

"At such a fragile time in community relations with law enforcement, it is deplorable that any city would refuse the opportunity for transparency," Colella said in a statement.

Colella is seeking a federal court order for the release of the dash-cam footage, along with all other investigation materials that have been withheld from FOIA requests.

A spokeswoman with the city of Dearborn says they have not yet been served with the lawsuit. Michigan State Police say they completed their investigation and turned it over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's office more than a month ago.

Dearborn police say Wade has been on leave since the shooting.

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