EAGLE POINT, Ore. — More than a month after a Jackson County grand jury voted to clear an Eagle Point Police officer of wrongdoing in the shooting death of Matthew Graves during an altercation at Carl's Jr in September, the Graves family has filed a civil lawsuit in reply.
"In doing so the family wants to bring accountability and consequences to the Eagle Point Police Department — and to all police departments and to all law enforcement agencies here and throughout the nation — so that all police officers, local, state and federal wll be better trained in how to deal with innocent citizens, including those who suffer mental impairments," said a statement from Kelly L. Andersen and David Linthorst, who are representing the Graves family in the case.
The lawsuit takes aim at both the actions of Officer Cardenas and in the grand jury proceedings — alleging that Cardenas created the volatile situation by pursuing Graves when he had not committed anything beyond a minor traffic violation. Oregon law states that an officer "shall not arrest a person for a traffic violation."
"Cardenas told the grand jury that he initially wanted to talk to Matthew about jaywalking. When Matthew did not want to talk to him, Cardenas doggedly pursued Matthew into Carl's Jr., never telling Matthew why he wanted to talk to him and never once issuing a command to which Matthew could comply," the lawyers' statement reads.
Perhaps most importantly, the lawsuit attacks instructions given to the grand jury by District Attorney Beth Heckert.
"Moreover the District Attorney instructed grand jurors only to focus on the 'moment when he [Cardenas] fires.' Oregon law actually requires that determining police misconduct must be based upon a 'totality of the circumstances,'" the statement says. That totality, the lawsuit alleges, includes Cardenas' unjustified attempt to arrest Graves by blockading him in the Carl's Jr. bathroom.
The suit also takes issue with apparent inconsistencies between what occurs in Cardenas' body cam footage and statements delivered by both officers Cardenas and Davis during the grand jury testimony.
"Cardenas claimed that Matthew began 'posturing' and 'stepping towards me,' outside of Carl's Jr. The body cam footage shows no such posturing or change of direction toward Cardenas," says the statement from Andersen and Linthorst.
The lawsuit names the City of Eagle Point, the Eagle Point Police Department, and Officer Cardenas responsible for the deprivation of Matthe Graves' civil rights and his wrongful death. It asks that a federal jury determine the "full and fair value" of those damages, plus fees for experts and attorneys.
The full text of the lawsuit may be viewed or downloaded below.