FORKS — Former Forks Police Officer Mike Gentry and the city of Forks are being sued over the fatal 2016 shooting of a 59-year-old Beaver man inside his mobile home.
Two sons of Edward Lowell Hills, Joshua Hills of Snohomish County and Ryan Hills of King County, filed their Seattle federal district court complaint Tuesday, requesting unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial.
Their father was shot three times at about 5 p.m. Nov. 4, 2016, at the Lake Pleasant Mobile Home & RV Park off U.S. Highway 101 during a confrontation with Gentry and Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Edwin Anderson.
Gentry and Anderson shot Hills 78 seconds after they arrived at his Space 23 home in response to two 9-1-1 calls from his Space 24 neighbor, according to the lawsuit.
The neighbor was concerned that Hills had been up all night yelling and was gesturing at his front door pretending to have a weapon, according to the lawsuit.
The family’s lawsuit alleges Gentry and the city deprived Hills of his civil rights, including through unreasonable entry into Hills’ home and use of excessive force.
Anderson is not named in the lawsuit as a liable party although he shot Hills in the chest.
The family contends it was Gentry who unnecessarily “precipitated” the shooting by illegally deploying his Taser at Hills when Hills was unarmed, while Hills was attempting to close his door, and as Anderson was trying to convince Hills to come outside to speak with the officers.
Gentry missed Hills with the Taser, but Hills then reached for and grabbed a fully loaded .38-caliber revolver, according to a State Patrol report on the incident.
Hills did not fire the revolver or point it at Gentry or Anderson, according to the report.
“It was like facing toward the wall, I guess, and as he picked it up, and at that point I knew he was going to kill us,” Anderson said in an interview for the report.
Anderson fired two rounds, striking Hills once in the chest. Gentry fired eight rounds, shooting Hills in the right thigh and left knee, according to the report.
The report concluded that Anderson and Gentry acted to protect themselves and residents (https://tinyurl.com/PDN-StateReport).
The report also said Hills had methamphetamine in his system and told Anderson, “I’ll take a gun and I’ll shoot you in your head.”
Anderson’s attempt to convince Hills to exit the trailer “might have worked but for Gentry’s illegal, unconstitutional and negligent escalation of the situation,” according to the lawsuit.
Anderson said he did not conclude that Hills was a danger to others until after Gentry fired the Taser, the lawsuit said, citing questioning of Anderson about the incident by county Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan.
Fifteen minutes after Gentry and Anderson took up defensive positions outside the trailer, backup arrived and Hills was found dead.
“The liability of Defendant Forks is a result of its failure to adequately train, supervise, and discipline Gentry in the constitutional use of force,” Hills’ sons contend.
There were 18 complaints against Gentry between Feb. 9, 2011 and Feb. 2, 2017, according to a heavily redacted record of complaints supplied to Peninsula Daily News under a state Public Records Act request.
Gentry was on paid administrative leave for 15 months before resigning May 18, 2018, while under FBI investigation for rape, according to the Forks Police Department.
Gentry denied the allegation, and no charges have been filed.
The Hills brothers also are suing the city for allegedly violating the state Public Records Act over disclosure of complaints made about Gentry.
Hills’ sons contend that the city has unnecessarily delayed producing “certain unidentified and unknown documents” in violation of the Public Records Act.
Under documents received by their lawyers, Gentry’s employment file “is replete with charges, reprimands and suspensions due to an FBI rape investigation and other sordid issues,” according to the lawsuit.
Gentry was placed on administrative leave Feb. 11, 2017, nine days after the 18th complaint, and given a notice of internal investigation Feb. 13, 2017, according to records obtained by Peninsula Daily News.
FBI spokeswoman Shelley Gryz on Friday would not confirm or deny the existence of the rape investigation, a reflection, she said, of FBI policy on all investigations unless they result in publicly filed documents, such as charges, or if the FBI is seeking the public’s help.
City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck would not comment Friday about the lawsuit.
“We do not have the investigatory material” from the FBI, he added.
“I don’t believe the FBI has closed their case.”
Gentry’s legal expenses are being covered by the state Insurance Risk Pool.
His lawyer, John Turner Kugler of Seattle, had not been served with the lawsuit as of Friday.
A lawyer for the Christie Law Group of Seattle, representing the city of Forks, was not available for comment Friday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].