Vidalia sued in accidental shooting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

VIDALIA — The man who was injured last September when a Vidalia Police officer’s weapon was accidentally discharged has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages.

Vondell Hawkins filed the lawsuit in Seventh Judicial District Court, naming VPD Investigator Randy Stockman and Hyram Copeland in his capacity as mayor as the defendants.

The suit alleges Hawkins had willfully surrendered to the officers when the incident occurred, and is requesting damages for medical expenses, lost wages and general damages, including “pain, suffering, depression, embarrassment and disability.”

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Vidalia Police Chief Ronnie G. “Tapper” Hendricks said he doesn’t believe the suit has any merit.

The investigation into the incident, handled by the Louisiana State Police, noted that Hawkins received “minor injuries” from the bullet.

Hendricks characterized those injuries as “just a scratch.”

“It was an abrasion on his leg where the bullet grazed him,” Hendricks said.

Stockman was also injured in the accidental shooting when the bullet struck him in the ankle.

The report from the LSP states that Stockman and Officer Drew Harrison were working an active investigation in which Hawkins was a suspect.

When they tried to interview him at the Vidalia Police station, Hawkins fled from the station because he knew of active warrants for his arrest, the report said.

After pursuing Hawkins on foot, the officers were in the process of arresting him when Stockman accidentally discharged his weapon in the process of reholstering it.

Hendricks said he turned the investigation over to the LSP to remove any question of objectivity from the investigation.

“We didn’t want it to come from us saying (Stockman) wasn’t in the wrong because people would think that was biased,” he said. “Any time you have a situation like that it is best to turn it over to the state level.”

Hawkins was rearrested by the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office three weeks after the incident on charges of theft greater than $300, criminal damage to property and aggravated assault.

He was also arrested in May on charges of felony possession of stolen things after he was allegedly discovered to have a gun that was reportedly used in an attempted murder.