ELSMERE, Ky. - The attorney for the family of the man shot and killed by a Northern Kentucky police officer says a report reveals he was shot in the back.
Michael Godawa, 21, was shot and killed after an altercation with police in June.
Attorney Eric Deters says details in a report from the Elsmere Fire Protection District of the EMT response to the incident involving Godawa reveal that he had an entry gunshot wound to the back, with no exit wound.
The Godawa family filed a lawsuit Monday over his shooting death at the hands of Elsmere Police Officer David Byrd.
Don and Tina Godawa say their son wasn't perfect, but he wasn't trash either. They also say they want answers in their son's death, and the Elsmere Police Department isn't giving them any.
"I want them to release all these evidence because I will fight this case 'til the last breath comes out of me," Don Godawa said. "They have took my only child. He was an honor student at Dixie High School, graduated 2009. I am mad. I will fight this."
Police say Michael Godawa got into a struggle with officer Byrd outside the Finish Line Bar and Grill on Dixie Highway in Elsmere on June 23.
Byrd, a bike patrol officer, was investigating Godawa for a possible DUI, according to police. They say Godawa tried to flee the scene, hitting Byrd with his car. That's when the officer fired one shot. Godawa tried to flee again, striking a utility pole.
The Dixie Heights High School graduate was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.
Godawa's parents say there was no reason for the officer to shoot him. They're arguing police have blocked their efforts to get more information on the case.
"If officer Byrd’s life was in clear and present danger as his lawyer claims, why was he shooting my client in the back?" Deters said Wednesday in a press release.
"If he was wrong, he should have went to jail. I would have rather picked up a phone and talked to my son through a glass window and visit him at a jail than to have to go into Cooper's Funeral Home and to lay across his body and tell him goodbye. This has been so devastating for me," said Don.
Officer Byrd was placed on paid administrative leave by the Elsmere Police Department but is now back on duty according to his lawyer Jeff Mando.
In an emailed statement, Mando wrote, “It would be premature for me to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit when the Erlanger Police Department’s investigation of the incident is not complete, but I am confident that the investigation will show that Michael Godawa presented a clear and present danger to the life of Officer Byrd and that his use of deadly force was justified. In addition, the lawsuit contains numerous false statements and inaccuracies leading me to conclude that Plaintiff’s counsel failed to fully investigate the claims before he filed suit. As such, Officer Byrd will vigorously defend the suit and pursue all available remedies, including sanctions.”
The Erlanger Police Department is handling the investigation. Because of the case being an open investigation, they had no comment.
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