The family of a suspected shoplifter who was fatally shot by a Deptford Township police officer in 2018 while allegedly trying to flee a South Jersey strip mall has filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit, contending the deadly police action was “unreasonable and unjustifiable.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Camden, charges that Sgt. Kevin A. Clements acted improperly when he shot and killed LaShanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia, at the Deptford Crossing Center on June 9, 2018.

Clements fired three shots as Anderson and a passenger tried to flee, authorities said. She was struck in the left side of her head and in an elbow. She died at the scene.

LaShanda Anderson, 36, was shot and killed by a Deptford police officer in June 2018. In a lawsuit, a lawyer for her family disputes police accounts that she attempted to strike officers with her car after allegedly shoplifting at a Marshalls store in Deptford Township.
Delaware State Police
LaShanda Anderson, 36, was shot and killed by a Deptford police officer in June 2018. In a lawsuit, a lawyer for her family disputes police accounts that she attempted to strike officers with her car after allegedly shoplifting at a Marshalls store in Deptford Township.

The shooting sparked national headlines and protests at the scene. Anderson’s family called it “another senseless killing of an unarmed African American woman.” Clements is white.

It was the first fatal shooting by police in Deptford.

“It was an unreasonable and unjustifiable use of deadly force,” said Woodbury civil rights attorney Stanley King, who represents the Anderson family. “No reasonable officer would have acted in a similar fashion under these circumstances.”

King believes the shooting had racial overtones and bears a striking resemblance to recent allegations of police brutality that have sparked protests around the country.

“I don’t believe LaShanda Anderson would be dead but for the fact for her race,” he said Monday. “I don’t believe he would have shot recklessly if it were two white women.”

Woodbury civil rights lawyers Stanley and Sharon King filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a woman fatally shot by a Deptford police officer during a suspected shoplifting in 2018.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Woodbury civil rights lawyers Stanley and Sharon King filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a woman fatally shot by a Deptford police officer during a suspected shoplifting in 2018.

In the lawsuit, King contends police “created a false narrative that the officer’s life was in danger.” He also renewed questions about the grand jury probe and the prosecutor’s failure to present testimony from two eyewitnesses who said Anderson was trying to flee, not run over Clements.

“There’s no way it could have happened the way they said it did,” said Aedan Bell, 24, of Clementon, one of the witnesses. Police allowed other eyewitnesses in the store to leave without getting statements or names, he said.

The incident was in the Marshalls parking lot across from Deptford Mall on a Saturday afternoon. Clements and Capt. William Bittner were dispatched to the scene after a report of a shoplifting in progress, authorities have said.

Anderson, Raoul Gadson, and Chanel Barnes, all of Philadelphia, left Marshalls with merchandise valued at $3,433.41, authorities said.

After a scuffle with a store employee, Gadson ran off, and Anderson and Barnes got into an SUV, authorities said. Clements stood in front of the vehicle with his weapon drawn and ordered Anderson to stop, but she accelerated toward him.

According to King, the shots were fired into the SUV after it passed Clements. Shooting toward a fleeing vehicle violates police training, he said.

Barnes was arrested and charged with shoplifting, and released to await trial. Gadson was captured several days later and charged with assault and robbery.

The 15-page lawsuit contends the police department failed to adequately train and supervise its officers.

In addition to Clements, the lawsuit names Bittner and former Police Chief William Hanstein. All three have retired and could not be reached for comment.

Clements, a 20-year veteran, was accused of roughing up two women during previous encounters. A 70-year-old female driver said Clements slammed her to the ground after he stopped her in August 2015 for allegedly making an illegal lane change; her case settled for $20,000. Another woman said she suffered a broken nose when Clements punched her in the face while he was attempting to disperse a rowdy crowd at a Deptford bar in 2018.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Anderson’s three children and seeks unspecified punitive damages. Family members have said Anderson was trying to get her life together after several brushes with the law. She had been arrested more than 15 times over the last 18 years — for shoplifting but also for more serious charges, including firearms violations and attempted murder.