Parents Awarded $32 Million After Benton Police Officer Fatally Shoots Teenager

Little Rock, Arkansas – A jury has awarded $32 million to the parents of a teenager who was fatally shot by a Benton police officer in 2016. The weeklong trial concluded with the jury finding the city of Benton liable for $30 million and former Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane liable for $1 million. Officer Kyle Ellison, who fired the fatal shots, was cleared of claims of excessive force and assault and battery.

The civil trial began on January 29 in Little Rock, focusing on the officer-involved shooting death of 17-year-old Keagan Schweikle. Responding to a report of a suicidal and armed individual, police fatally shot the teenager. Closing arguments were presented a week later, with the jury then retiring to deliberate the case.

Piper Partridge and Dominic Schweikle, the parents of Keagan, filed a lawsuit against Former Benton Ellison, the officer responsible for the shooting, for excessive force, deadly force, assault, and battery. They also sued the city of Benton and former Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane for negligence in training the officers and failure to investigate the fatal shooting.

Mark Geragos, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, highlighted the lack of planning and mental health policies in the Benton Police Department, emphasizing the testimony of former Benton Police Officer Terry Fuller. Fuller, who witnessed the incident from Lyle Park, testified that he saw Keagan squatting and facing the river before he turned around, pointed his arm in the air, and heard gunshots.

Geragos questioned the absence of a plan or guidance from Chief Kirk Lane, while Jenna Adams, an attorney from the Arkansas Municipal League, defended Officer Ellison. She stated that Ellison felt an immediate threat to his life and the lives of his fellow officers when Keagan pointed the gun at them.

During the trial, it was revealed that Chief Lane was denied a search warrant by a Saline County judge, who disagreed with the investigation’s direction. Geragos criticized the defense’s lack of mention of department policies or a plan, highlighting Fuller’s testimony that he would have approached Keagan as a human.

In his closing statements, Geragos criticized the amount of time spent by Ellison and his attorneys preparing for the trial, urging the jury not to equate the preparation to a football game. He also questioned the credibility of the defense’s paid police expert, John Jack Ryan, who had been excluded from a federal case in Arkansas three years ago.

The jury’s verdict holds the city of Benton primarily responsible for the teenager’s death, with the former chief and officer also being held liable. The substantial award underscores the significance of the trial and its implications for police training and accountability.