Cop Who Killed Shantel Davis Accused of Past Aggressive Behavior
EAST FLATBUSH — The NYPD detective who shot 23-year-old Shantel Davis in East Flatbush following a car chase Thursday afternoon has previously been accused of aggressive behavior, according to lawsuits filed against him.
Phil Atkins, 44, who works in the NYPD's narcotics unit, has been sued seven times in the past 10 years, with allegations including use of undue force and fabricating charges, according to court documents.
The city has paid more than $130,000 to settle five of the cases, and the remaining two are still open, court records show.
In the most recent case against Atkins, three women said they were in a closed garage in Bay Ridge in May 2009 when police officers including Atkins banged on the door, then busted it down and rushed in with their guns drawn, according to court documents.
The women were arrested on marijuana charges, and one of them was strip-searched, but the charges were ultimately dismissed, court records show.
That case against Atkins is still pending.
In another case, a Brooklyn stay-at-home dad who was riding his bike at Bedford and Rogers avenues was stopped by officers including Atkins in July 2010 and was arrested without knowing the reason, according to court documents.
The man was cuffed so tightly he had bruises, and he was later strip-searched and denied food and water before finally being released the next day, after Brooklyn's District Attorney declined to charge him with a crime, court records show.
The man was awarded $20,000, court records show.
Residents of East Flatbush denounced Atkins as a "murderer" Thursday, in the wake of the shooting that left Davis dead.
"He has put his gun in so many faces," said Chevon Messiah, 27, who lives in the neighborhood.
Messiah said he had seen Atkins be overly aggressive during stop-and-frisks, often pulling out his gun when it did not appear necessary.
"He's like a person that wants to take control," said Kahief Williams, 21, an East Flatbush resident who said Atkins had stopped and frisked him.
A woman who gave only her first initial, K, and lives across the street from Thursday's shooting, said Atkins "terrorized" the community, sometimes stopping and frisking local kids who were in the middle of playing a basketball game.
She once saw Atkins harassing some local residents and asked him what was going on. He replied, "Shut up or I'll lock you up," she said.
On Thursday afternoon, Davis, who had a lengthy criminal record — including attempted murder and kidnapping charges — was running red lights and weaving through traffic on Church Avenue in a stolen car, police said. Police say they had been pursuing her when she crashed into a minivan at East 38th Street.
Atkins and another officer approached Davis' car, and Davis threw the car into reverse, gunning the engine in an attempt to escape, police said. Atkins opened the driver's side door with a gun in his hand and, while trying to put the car into park, he fired a single shot that fatally struck Davis in the chest.
She cried out and fell to the sidewalk, bleeding profusely. Paramedics rushed her to Kings County hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, speaking to reporters Friday, dismissed the idea that the lawsuits showed a pattern of misconduct.
“This is a litigious town and active officers have lawsuits and complaints,” Browne said, according to the New York Post.
Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association, also defended Atkins.
"It's unfair to judge a narcotics detective's performance on how many lawsuits are filed against him," Palladino said in a phone interview Friday. "Drug dealers, they're interested in one thing, and that's making money, either by selling drugs or by filing lawsuits… Based on the facts and the circumstances, I think our detective acted appropriately."