The family of a man shot and killed by a tow truck operator has filed $1 million wrongful death lawsuit against United Tow and its driver.
The tow truck operator was not indicted. A grand jury felt that he was in his rights under the state's castle doctrine to shoot a man he saw getting in the cab of his tow truck.
That law allows you to protect your home or property, but those protections from prosecution don’t stop a civil lawsuit filed this week.
On Feb. 5, Lance Lemons, was shot and killed by a tow truck operator at the Flats of Five Mile Creek apartments in Oak Cliff.
At 3 a.m., Lemons was leaving a friend's apartment.
United Tow Truck operator Mario Mercado had walked away from his idling rig and was parked behind Lemons’ truck.
Lemons, a father of two, climbed in the cab, ostensibly to move the truck.
Mercado, thinking the truck was being stolen, pulled a gun, firing one time and striking Lemons in the neck.
Lemons was killed.
“The vehicle wasn’t moving when he was shot,” said family attorney Ted Lyon. “It didn’t go anywhere after he was shot. It was parked in neutral…”
Mercado had a C.H.L. from Arizona. He was not arrested.
The case went to a grand jury. He was not indicted, and the case fell under the castle doctrine.
“Well, under the castle doctrine, which, you know, allows you to shoot somebody if they’re in your property…I believe it’s a crazy law,” said Lyon. “That doesn’t excuse him from being negligent and grossly negligent.”
That's what the $1 million wrongful death lawsuit alleges -- negligence and gross negligence against United Tow and Mercado.
“Quite literally, the jury will put themselves in the shoes of the shooter and say, ‘Somebody’s driving my tow truck. Am I justified in shooting that person?’” said Rogge Dunn, an attorney and adjunct professor at SMU.
Dunn not involved in the case.
“It’s going to come down to a fact question as to whether or not the tow truck driver acted reasonably under those circumstances on that night,” said Dunn.
Mercado still works for United Tow.
FOX 4 went to their offices on Friday and we were told that no one was there who could speak with us in an interview.
We contacted their law firm as well. Attorney Robert Owen Jenkins did not return our calls.