Bellevue family refiles suit against police

Man was sitting on porch with firearm before being fatally shot by officers
Shawn Foucher
Dec 1, 2013


Military veteran. Homeowner. Concealed-carry permit holder. No criminal record.

That’s the man James David Sr. was on Sept. 22, 2010, when Bellevue police Officers Jeffrey Matter and Erik Lawson fatally shot him as he sat on a chair outside his Union Street home.

David’s family has renewed their fight against Bellevue and its police department, filing a federal lawsuit seeking $1 million in damages for wrongful death.

The family originally filed suit in September 2012, without an attorney, but they later withdrew the case.

They’ve since hired Wittenberg Law Group, of Reynoldsburg, to represent them in the new suit filed this month in U.S. Northern District Court in Toledo.

The suit accuses Matter, Lawson and the police department of violating the civil rights of David and his family.

Specifically, it accuses the officers and former Bellevue police Chief Dennis Brandal of excessive use of force and negligence on multiple levels, including violating David’s right to bear arms.

The two officers were responding to a neighborhood dispute when they arrived at the scene that night.

David had walked across the street to confront a group of people who were causing a disturbance, according to the lawsuit, and several of the people responded by threatening him.

David then returned to his home, where his wife, Karen, was headed to bed.

“David believed the people in front of his house posed a threat to him, his wife, and his property, so he retrieved his firearm, went to his front porch, and sat in the chair on his front porch to protect himself, his wife and his property from harm” the suit states.

One of the people who David confronted — James Armstrong — called police and said David had threatened him, the suit states.

When Matter and Lawson arrived, they parked their cruisers in the area without activating their emergency lights. They then approached David’s home on foot, “under the cover of darkness” and from behind a tree, according to the suit.

“Matter and Lawson approached the David house with guns drawn and flashlights in hand,” the suit states. “With guns raised and without clearly identifying themselves in the dark, half hidden by the tree, wearing all black, shining flashlights at David, and coming from the direction of a known threat to David, (Matter and Lawson) engaged (David) without identifying themselves as police officers”

Both officers later said David had a handgun and made a movement toward the front door of the home.

The officers fired 22 shots at David, with multiple shots striking him in the face, arm, lungs, heart, aorta, liver, spleen, intestines, bladder and pelvis.

David never fired his weapon.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation later presented the case to a grand jury, which opted not to indict the officers.

Both officers were ultimately cleared.

“From the autopsy and the BCI reconstruction of where the bullets struck the house, David was sitting in the chair where he was fired upon by Lawson and Matter” the suit states.

The suit accuses the officers of creating a dangerous and threatening situation by failing to identify themselves, and by wearing all black and shining flashlights at David.

The officers “lacked probable cause to pursue David in the manner that they did,” the suit states. “Their conduct exceeded the scope of their discretionary authority and violated a right to clearly established that any officer in that position would have known to refrain from such conduct”

One claim in the lawsuit alleges Lawson was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after only recently returning from military service in a combat zone.

The officer’s actions “resemble that of soldiers in a combat zone approaching a target using extreme condition tactics instead of two officers responding to a non-pursuit or ‘no emergency light’ situation whereby they were to investigate a complaint, not engage a subject” the suit states.

The suit also says Karen David has experienced severe emotional injuries as a result of witnessing the wrongful death of her husband.

The other plaintiffs in the suit are David’s son, James David Jr., and his daughter, Stacy Thomsen.

Defendants are the city of Bellevue, the city’s police department, former police Chief Dennis Brandal, and Lawson and Matter.


thinkagain's picture

“Both officers were ultimately cleared.”

Of course, police have the “right” to murder without consequence.


Carful here. Some cops are cocky - not all. Some military vets have combat experience - most don't. What do neighbors say about the whole matter?

Police shoot Bellevue man to death
Man shot and killed by police in Bellevue, Ohio


It is interesting that people are quick to point out that they may suffer from PTSD yet want the opportunity to carry a firearm. If you are that unstable then you should probably not be carrying.

getit right be4...

And what gives you the right to chose who can and can not exercise there rights.

I believe that people like you should not be able to publish there opinions. You are no longer aloud to speak your mind.


I am not saying he doesn't have the right to own a weapon. If you are man enough to own it and use it then don't hide behind a mental illness.


So, let me get this right, if you were a police officer, responding to a man with a gun that has already threatened someone, you would not respond tactfully????? You would just walk up to the subject and say......hello its the police out in front of him......I don't think think so. And some info was left out in this article.....if I remember correctley he was drunk with a gun....kinda left that key info out of the article didn't ya!!

"Bellevue, OH man shot and killed by police"

James Armstrong? Kind of a common name.

How about James D. Armstrong Jr.? DOB 06/27/1989

Ask Armstrong about how to murder your neighbor with assistance by the police. You make up a story about your very dangerous neighbor, tell your story to the police and the police will kill your neighbor for you. Murder by police. A perfect murder and nobody pays except for the family and friends of the beloved victim.

Ask James Armstrong all about it. Would you believe this thug? Why should the naive police? The police helped carry out the perfect murder.
James D Armstrong
"Bellevue residents worry about neighbor troubles"

Search: Armstrong, James

There are other court records besides the Sandusky (OHIO) court.


One more mugshot:
James D Armstrong



Darwin's choice

"Murder by cop".....

The many recent assaults on unarmed citizens in the United States is very disturbing. Along with the shoot first-ask-for-details later mentality that many, by no means all, have shown, it's very apparent that there is a lack of training in the discharging of their weapons, this is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Ohio's requirements for police officers training is hundreds of hours less than those required to cut your hair!
I believe that this call was improperly handled by both officers....


many renters in this general neighborhood, really are trashy and have no respect for neighbors property. Yet some [a few] are awesome neighbors. Sad, trash have to mess up nice neighborhoods.


Better to be judged by 12 than carried by six. How many average people after drinking sit on their front porch with a gun? If its normal in your neighborhood you might want to move. Firearms and booze and perfect combination for a tragedy. The family is alleging that the officer suffered from PTSD, not the officer. The officers had seconds to make a decision, lawyers and all the experts on this blog have forever to second guess.

Darwin's choice

Which officer? The officer, or the not officer?


I think he/she meant the man, whom was probably an officer in military???? Not sure....


"One claim in the lawsuit alleges Lawson was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after only recently returning from military service in a combat zone."
The family alleged this NOT the officer (Lawson).


Sam, Were the cops tested for alcohol or drugs in their system?

How many bullets? 24?


Tell me Sam, do you have some "insider" information?


"The officers had seconds to make a decision"

CORRECTION! They had minutes. Did they look at Armstrong's identification? In the past when I made a police complaint, I had to show them my ID. Simple logic would make sure and verify. Take the word of some young criminal punk?

Sam, WHAT is your expertise? Law enforcement?

I hold police officers to a higher standard. It takes a special person to be a cop. A person who thinks things out.

A simple phone call to the victims home could have averted this. Do I need to explain?

Hate your neighbor? Call the cops and tell them that your neighbor is growing marijuana. A smart cop would come during the day and verify that the neighbor is not growing anything illegal.

Some cops are too trigger happy and way too stupid to use logic.

There are thousands of innocent Americans who have been murdered by cops. False investigations that cover up the truth give the cops a get out of jail free card. If the innocent victim kills a cop during a night raid, the victim faces murder charges.

I have met my share of "cocky" cops who think that they are God.

Look up Ryan Frederick on the internet.

Police storm troopers at work at night. Logic does not fit in.

Logic and time. Take the time to verify.


LOGIC is the word.

What is logic?

I leave that to you to explore.

A quick explanation:


For the record. Did he have a Combat Action Ribbon? Josh Mandel was in a combat zone though it was a "green zone." He had an opportunity to come to Al-Anbar and go fwd into actual combat - he declined. Oh PTSD...please, many I know don't use that term or medication, they embrace what they did (killing) & rationalize.


Not sure why this guy would put himself in harm's way by going out on his porch armed. Looking for trouble? A safer bet would have been to get and stay inside until police showed up.


Centauri, you are on drugs!!! What are you babbling about? I'm sure if he didn't have a gun they would have checked some I'd's. Again, a guy drunk with a gun, last thing I'm sure they were worried about was checking some Id's. And make a phone call, just leave a drunk guy with a gun on a porch....sounds like you would be an awesome cop there centauri....just make phone calls to fix everything...sound like obama


"Centauri, you are on drugs!!!"

Wow! What a hot head. Delusional too. No, I am not on drugs. Too much coffee, Please? I tried to explain down to your level but you still don't get it.


just asking but since when do police officers NOT have to announce themselves as "police officers" and get to "sneek up" on a suspected gun-totting suspect? They should have announced "this is the police, put down your weapon, lay down on the porch with your hands above your head", not snuck up on him and allowed him to shoot them. How dumb can you be???????


I thought it was legal to own a gun and sit on your front porch! Silly me!


If someone has a gun, I would assume you would want to get into a good spot before you announce anything. The cops didn't just walk up and start shooting him for no reason. They would have to put themselves in a tactical advantage before saying anything.....unless the cops want to get shot. Think about have to sneek up if you don't want to die....get into a good spot then announce.....don't forget the guy was drunk with a gun, he put himself into this position! I'm sure the cops didn't go out there thinking, I'm going to shoot this guy, if that was the case they would have shot someone a long time ago.

Julie R.

The David family deserves a lot more than $1 million. That two-bit thug Armstrong should also have been charged with something.


whether or not someone has a criminal record.. no one has a right to go threaten someone with a gun...and all of you guys keep mentioning james but he wasnt the only person there....if you dont know what actually had happened, then you really have no right to say anything.... the only people who know are the old guy and those that were there.. Oh talk about breaking the law, I remember that it's illegal to carry a gun when you've been drinking.


Were you there Uncle_BB?

Why did Armstrong go over to the porch? Maybe to make threats?

Why would police take Armstrong's word as truth? I would have done things differently. There was no rush, no hostages and no shooting. A man was lawfully on his porch with handgun.

Hot head "Please" says the victim was "drunk" and I ask what was the BAC of the victim?

Did you check Armstrong's daddy criminal record? Career criminal Sr. and Jr.

The victim who was killed had a spotless record. I was told that he was also a Vietnam veteran.

The police should have never listened to liar criminal Armstrong. The police should have never hid their cruiser and sneak up under the cover of darkness and startle the hearing impaired man on his own front porch.

Some people should not be cops. Good cops think things through. What was the rush?

"whether or not someone has a criminal record.. no one has a right to go threaten someone with a gun"

Please explain how the victim threatened someone with a gun? Because Armstrong said so? Because Armstrong's fellow thugs said so? I don't believe that the Bellevue PD is being truthful.
Blue Code of Silence


See there you go bringing unnecessary things into it. Whether or or not James has a record, still illegal to threaten someone with a gun. Or even to carry a gun while you have been drinking. Hah and just because someone hangs out with someone who has a record makes them a thug too?! Lol. The whole issue this time around is that the family is money hungry. That is the whole issue. You weren't there so you can't say a darn thing. And you keep trying to use the rep of one person to justify him breaking the law himself. Whether he was on his porch or not it is still illegal to carry a gun while drinking. And in Ohio you can not use your gun in defense of yourself outside of the inside walls of your home or car if there is any possible escape from the situation AT ALL. like maybe walk your alcoholic self back into your house.


"Or even to carry a gun while you have been drinking"

You mean like the Ohio police who can have a BAC of .04? How about police who can carry with a BAC of .08?
"Three departments in suburban Illinois permit alcohol limits of up to .05 while two others up to .079 - or one percentage below the state's definition of being drunk - the report by the Better Government Association found."

"And in Ohio you can not use your gun in defense of yourself outside of the inside walls of your home or car if there is any possible escape from the situation AT ALL. like maybe walk your alcoholic self back into your house."

"2) "Dwelling" means a building or conveyance of any kind that has a roof over it and that is designed to be occupied by people lodging in the building or conveyance at night, regardless of whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent or is mobile or immobile. As used in this division, a building or conveyance includes, but is not limited to, an attached PORCH, and a building or conveyance with a roof over it includes, but is not limited to, a tent."