The officer allegedly pummeled the woman in the head after she was neutralized by a barrage of gunfire.
By Naomi Feinstein
On September 12, 2023
The family of Brittni Muldrew is suing Coconut Creek police who fatally shot the 36-year-old and then allegedly beat her incapacitated body with a baton during a 2021 confrontation in which she backed up a vehicle toward an officer.
In a lawsuit filed against five Coconut Creek officers, Muldrew’s mother, Vicki Waters, claims police overreacted with deadly force after failing to de-escalate the encounter, which started off as a traffic stop but grew increasingly tense once police found the car had been reported stolen.
The lawsuit alleges one officer used a baton “to repeatedly strike Brittni in the head” while her bullet-filled body was being dragged out of the car — and continued to beat Muldrew as she lay “helplessly on the parking lot pavement.”
Waters is demanding damages for wrongful death, excessive and deadly force, and failure to intervene. Describing Muldrew as “a beloved daughter and the mother of two autistic children,” the lawsuit says she never “posed a threat to any of the defendant officers that would merit her being killed.”
Following the shooting, Coconut Creek police said officers were justified in opening fire in response to Muldrew zooming backward in the vehicle. A police report stemming from the arrest of Muldrew’s passenger, who was unharmed in the shooting, states that Muldrew “reversed the vehicle in the direction of officers” and “this threatening action caused officers” to shoot.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has turned over its investigation regarding the use of force to the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, an FDLE spokesperson told New Times via email. The State Attorney’s Office confirmed prosecutors are currently reviewing the case.
The deadly encounter took place on August 30, 2021, after a Coconut Creek police officer pulled Muldrew over for speeding while she was driving in a white Mercedes Benz alongside a passenger, Levon Lopez.
According to the complaint, Muldrew said her license was suspended and went “to get out of the car with her hands open and up.” The officer allegedly told Muldrew to just sit in the vehicle and thanked her for her honesty in admitting she “messed up.” With the door left propped open, Muldrew told the officer there were no weapons in the car, the complaint says.
The lawsuit says a second officer, Arthur Patton, showed up and that police found the Mercedes had been reported stolen, at which point both officers approached the vehicle with their guns drawn, demanding that Lopez and Muldrew get their hands up and not move.
“If you move, you understand what’s going to happen,” one officer can be heard saying in police video cited in the complaint. “And I need to see both hands on the wheel. Just keep them there at all times.”
The lawsuit claims Muldrew kept her hands on the wheel and asked police what she had done wrong before K-9 unit officer Amanda Cummings arrived at the scene.
Dashcam footage obtained by WPTV shows the car suddenly reversing towards Cummings, who darts out of the way as other officers stand around the vehicle with their guns drawn. Police records state that officers Cummings and Patton fired at Muldrew in response to “this threatening action.”
The lawsuit contends police fired multiple gunshots, including one to Muldrew’s head and back “despite the brake lights still illuminating” and the front wheels of the car being “turned to the right and away from the officers.”
After Muldrew was shot, the lawsuit alleges, officer Ty Morgan repeatedly struck her head with his steel baton as police dragged her body out of the car. Morgan began striking her again in the head “with his collapsible cold steel telescopic baton while her seriously injured body lay on the pavement of the parking lot,” the lawsuit claims.
Waters contends the officers did not need to escalate the initial encounter and whip out their firearms when her daughter was fully cooperating. She also claims the officers did not follow proper traffic stop standards — failing to tell Muldrew to turn off the car and not ordering the pair out of the vehicle.
A Broward police union has not responded to a request for comment.
The Sun Sentinel reported that during a 2021 bond hearing for Lopez, an attorney said surveillance footage from a gas station or convenience store in Parkland showed Lopez and Muldrew jumping into the running Mercedes Benz and driving off. Lopez was arrested and charged with grand theft auto and third-degree homicide while engaged in a felony offense. The murder charge was later dropped.
Ten days prior to her death, Muldrew had been released from Palm Beach County jail following her arrest on an unrelated petty theft charge.
The officers involved in the shooting were back on the force as of February 2022 after being placed on administrative leave in the aftermath of the fatal traffic stop.
This piece was republished from the Miami New Times.