Lawsuit filed after off-duty officer, 'mob' allegedly tried to force way into Black teen's home

Two people have been criminally charged for the incident.

January 28, 2021, 5:40 PM

A former North Carolina police officer who was fired and criminally charged last year after he allegedly gathered a group of armed people and tried to enter the home of a Black teen who he thought was a suspect in the case of a missing person, has been sued by the victim's family Tuesday.

Attorneys for Monica Shepard and her 18-year-old son Dameon filed the civil suit in North Carolina Tuesday contending that their clients were racially profiled and terrorized by former deputy Jordan Kita, and 14 other white defendants, some of whom were armed, who said they were looking for a missing woman.

Kita was off-duty but in uniform and had his sidearm when he came to the Shepard's Pender County home on May 3, 2020, along with the group, according to the suit.

Kita told Dameon he was looking for a Black suspect with a different name than Dameon's and tried to force himself into the home even though the teen repeatedly identified himself and said the suspect didn't live in the address, the suit said. Monica Shepard eventually forced Kita out of the doorway and the crowd dispersed, according to the suit.

In this screen grab taken from a video, Dameon Shepard and his mother, Monica Shephard are shown.

The missing girl was eventually found safe, according to the New Hanover and Pender County District Attorney's office.

"When a dozen or more white men and women with guns invade a Black family’s property, terrorize the people that live there, and refuse to listen or leave, the situation can easily spiral into tragic and deadly racial violence and death," Mark Dorosin, an attorney representing the Shepards, said in a statement to ABC News.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's office fired Kita and prosecutors charged him with "forcible trespass, misdemeanor breaking and entering, and willful failure to discharge duties" for his role in the incident.

At least 13 other white men and women were part of the group, including Kita's father Timothy, but none of those persons have been charged, according to the suit. Timothy Kita and a dozen "John and Jane Does" who were allegedly involved in the incident are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The defendants are being sued for trespass, assault; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; invasion of privacy; and violations of North Carolina’s civil rights and fair housing statutes, according to the court documents.

The Shepards are seeking relief in excess of $25,000 and punitive damages that will be determined by a jury, the court document said.

The Kitas' attorney denied the suit's claims, saying there was nothing racist about the incident.

"This case is no longer a colossal misunderstanding. Instead, it is about destroying the Kita family’s good name and their lives, with a lie," attorney James Rutherford, who represents the Kita family, said in a statement Thursday to ABC News. "The Kita family is not racist. They are a loving blended family full of inclusion."

Rutherford said the family will fight this "libelous lawsuit."

"The damages caused by these false allegations against the Kita family are immeasurable," Rutherford said in a statement. "This family is victim of a nationally broadcast smear campaign and look forward to the day they are vindicated."

Another person charged following the incident was Robert Austin Wood, who was allegedly standing behind Kita and holding an assault rifle when the off-duty officer confronted Dameon at the door, according to the suit.

Wood, who is also a defendant in the suit, was charged with "going armed to the terror of the people," by the DA's office. Wood pleaded not guilty on Dec. 4, according to his attorney.

Woody White, an attorney representing Wood, said in a statement to ABC News that seeking damages from his client "over this huge misunderstanding is racial extortion."

"Nothing bad befell the Shepard family; no racial slurs were used, no voices were raised, no threats were conveyed. It was a brief and seemingly uneventful misunderstanding that lasted less than 2 minutes last May," White said in the statement.

In this scene taken from video, police cars are shown outside the Shepard home on the night of the incident.

The criminal cases against Kita and Wood are ongoing.

The suit also contends that the Pender County Sheriff’s Office did not do enough to investigate the mob or the incident.

A captain from the sheriff's office allegedly did not attempt to question the members of the mob while they were outside the Shepard home and told the family the next day, "it was complicated to apprehend or arrest anyone who had been there the previous night," the suit said.

A representative from the Pender County Sheriff's office declined to comment about the suit.

"Experiencing this kind of terror at your home – the one place you should feel safe – is simply unconscionable," Jennifer Nwachukwu, an attorney representing the Shepards, said in a statement. "We filed this lawsuit today to make it clear that Black people should not be subject to living in fear at the hands of an armed white mob without accountability."

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