Opinion Article by Cam G., Executive Director and Co-Founder of Live Boston 617 Inc.
On December 8th, a motion for dismissal in response to the frivolous lawsuit filed by Juston Root’s Sister, Jennifer Root Bannon, was dismissed by Federal United States District Judge Richard G. Stearns, yet again confirming what we already know, the Police are under attack. Even after a meticulous and thorough investigation and the resulting report, by the Norfolk District Attorney where the actions of the Officers were found to be “reasonable and justified”. Yet the family of Mr. Root is still attempting to tarnish these Officer’s names and reputations while extorting as much money as they can in the process, with what appears to be the assistance of The Court.
Mr. Root, was a known and documented emotionally unstable, erratic person that carried weapons and even claim to be a Federal Agent in the past. On his Youtube Channel he even posted a non-sensical campaign video where he accounted his run for President. The facts could not be any more simple. He was shot and killed after brandishing what appeared to be a firearm multiple times, and his subsequent non-compliance with clearly issued verbal commands ended in his death.
In the morning of February 7th, 2020 at approximately 09:00 hours a Boston Police Officer in his marked cruiser, was flagged down while in the area of Brigham and Women’s Hosptial by security stating a male subject, who later is identified as Juston Root, had brandished a firearm when asked to move his vehicle. The Officer alerted operations via the radio, requesting additional units to respond and assist. Video evidence that was compiled during the DA’s investigation shows Mr. Root chasing hospital security.
Additionally, video shows Mr. Root attempting to misdirect responding Officers to a different location when they arrive on scene. Shown clearly in the video, Mr. Root motions down the street to approaching Officers before drawing and aiming what appears to be a firearm at the approaching Officer. The Officer during follow up interviews, explained that when he first arrived on scene, Mr. Root repeatedly stated, “I’m Law Enforcement, I’m Law Enforcement”, in what we believe was a deliberate and strategic attempt to close the distance between himself and the Officer. After realizing that Mr. Root was in fact the suspect, and seeing the weapon pointed in his direction, the Officer began to retreat while drawing his weapon and firing at the suspect.
The Officer in his haste to find cover and retreat, lost his footing and fell to the ground, with Mr. Root continuing to advance with what appeared to be his weapon drawn. Other arriving Officers reported seeing Mr. Root standing with what appeared to be a firearm and an Officer laying on the ground, given the situation and hearing the early shots fired, these officer discharged their weapons in the direction of Mr. Root who they believed had shot the Officer on the ground. After a short volley of gunfire, further video shows Mr. Root limping away to his vehicle appearing to confirm that Officers did strike their intended target of Mr. Root. As we now know a stray bullet did strike a BWH staff member, an incident we will not be focusing on in this post.
After entering his vehicle, Mr. Root fled the scene towards Huntington Ave and then onto Route 9 in Brookline. During the incident a Code 303 was issued, alerting all sounding area Law Enforcement that an Officer-Involved Shooting has occurred and assistance was needed. During the pursuit of Mr. Root and his vehicle attempts were made to stop the fleeing car, including Officers striking it with additional cruisers and the deployment of “Stop-Stick”. Officers continued to pursue the subject who reached speeds estimated to be in excess of 70 to 80 miles-per-hour, weaving through heavy traffic. At the intersection of Hammond Street and Route 9 the vehicle stuck a number of vehicles, with the cars black box recording a speed of 90 miles-per-hour a the time of the collision.
Officers who arrived on scene of the collision noted the numerous vehicles that were damaged in the collision, however their attention was quickly focused to Mr. Root who could be seen fleeing on foot into the crowed Mall parking lot. A woman who appeared to be a bystander began to approach Mr. Root, and Officers quickly ordered her away from what they believed to be an armed threat. They continued to give loud and clear verbal commands for Mr. Root to show his hands and to lay down on the ground which can clearly be heard on body worn cameras (shown below) and corroborated by numerous bystanders. Instead of complying with issued commands, Mr. Root reached into his jacket in a motion consistent with retrieving a firearm from a holster, consistent with the hostler Mr. Root was wearing.
As Mr. Root reached, numerous officers saw what appeared to be a black handgun, and began shouting “Gun”, and subsequently discharging their weapon at the perceived threat. Through the investigation, it was determined that 6 weapons were discharged, five by Boston Police Officers and one by a Trooper. The entirety of the discharges lasted less than three and a half seconds with a total of 31 rounds fired. Records from the Office of The Chief Medical Examiner indicate that shot a total of 26 times.
After the suspect was down, the Trooper and Officers, detained Mr. Root, who’s hands were reported to still be moving. After handcuffing the suspect, Mr. Root was rolled onto his back so aid could be rendered, and it was at this time that they confirmed that there was what appeared to back semi-automatic firearm inside of a shoulder holster. It was not until after the incident that it was discovered to be a BB Gun. Additionally, during their review of the incident, investigators located the paintball pistol, a gold replica firearm, and a number of knives.
Moments after the shots were fired, Emergency Medical Personal arrived on scene and transported Mr. Root to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with life-threatening injuries consistent with gun shot wounds. Mr. Root was pronounced deceased a short time later at the hospital after attempting all life saving measures.
The WRONGFUL Death Lawsuit
On August 10th, 2020 Jennifer Root Bannon, the sister of Juston Root, filed a Federal wrongful-death lawsuit in Federal Court. In the 35 page filling, Miss Bannon, names not just the City of Boston and the Boston Police Department, but individually the five Officers and one Trooper. In the suit, Miss Bannon baselessly claims her brother was, “shot and killed.. while he was on the ground, unarmed, seriously injured, and desperately struggling to breathe.” She went on further to elaborate that “Mr. Root did not flee. He did not point or brandish a weapon of any kind. He made no threatening or overt act toward the Individual Defendants or anyone else.”
In a statement made early this month by Miss. Bannon she claimed, blatantly ignoring the facts of the matter, that her brother was “… a kind, loving son and brother and his death is a tragedy. Juston and our family deserves no less than the truth being revealed and those responsible held accountable under the law.“ She went on to add, “The truth must be told about how Juston was killed… The officers and trooper must be held accountable for their egregious actions and misconduct unloading their weapons and shooting 31 times while he was on the ground, bleeding and barely conscious.”
What Miss Bannon failed to mention in her remarks was the true reason behind her suit, a calculated, classless money-grab. In the last few lines of the suit, her motive becomes clear; a payday courtesy of the Tax-Payer and six hard-working dedicated public servants.
The Request for DISMISSAL
In response to the Federal Lawsuit, the city of Boston filed a motion for dismissal, citing numerous reason such as the following. Miss Root accused the City and Boston Police of multiple failures including to adequately train or supervise its Officers. The City argued that Miss Root failed to meet the expectation to show evidence of “the deficiency in training that led to Justin Root’s death nor sets out a pattern of unconstitutional conduct by Boston officers that would have placed the City on notice of a need for further training of its officers”. Citing City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 387, 388 (1989). Because “adequately trained officers occasionally make mistakes; the fact that they do says little about the training program or the legal basis for holding the city liable.” In this case one could argue that Officers did not even make a mistake given that they believed their safety and the safety of other was under threat by an armed suspect.
On December 8th, after hearing both arguments, Federal Judge Richard G. Stearns, who was appointed by Bill Clinton, and had previously worked on Democratic Political Campaigns, decided to deny the motion for dismissal. This decision to blindly ignore Miss Bannon baseless attempt at payday is both saddening but also an embarrassment to the Court he rules over. Judge Stearns, a California Native and Harvard Law Graduate, should be ashamed at his decision to clearly bend to the will of popular anti-police sentiment rather than hold up true justice, further allowing the greed of Miss Bannon to cost the Tax-Payers and damage the good reputation of six dedicated public servants who repeatedly put their own lives on the line and between the public and a perceived threat.
So I ask you the reader, at what point do our officers stop doing their job and forget their sworn oath to protect and serve the citizens. How many times were they to stop and let Mr. Root point what appeared to be a firearm in their direction before taking action. At what point do we put an end to this nonsense and get back to good policing. How many more criminals do we make into hero’s and victims. I am thankful every day for the officers who continue to go out and protect our neighborhoods with the constant threat of punitive and legal action at the slightest misstep. I pray the day will never come where these men and women who risk so much to protect us finally have enough and leave their posts, but I fear this day will come sooner than later with these continued attacks on decent hard working Officers of the Law. But until then, all I can say is thank you.