Family sues in federal court after Aurora woman killed by police

The family of a Missouri woman who was fatally shot by Aurora-Marionville police in 2018, has filed a federal lawsuit against the municipalities and police officers involved.

In May 2018, 21-year-old Savannah Hill was fatally shot by an Aurora-Marionville police officer in what was believed to be a traffic stop to apprehend a suspected drug trafficker in the area. Hill was helping police apprehend the suspect, according to court documents.

The lawsuit says police denied that Hill was a confidential informant.

The lawsuit, which alleges Hill’s civil rights were violated, states that Hill was only in the car that day because Aurora police officers falsely represented to Hill that she would be charged with multiple crimes and even murder if she didn’t agree to work with the department to bring down the suspected drug dealer.

According to the lawsuit, a month before the shooting, Hill drove an overdosed man to an Aurora hospital for treatment. Her car was allegedly illegally searched by Aurora police officers and they found drug paraphernalia. According to the lawsuit, Hill should have been protected from prosecution for possession of the items because of Missouri’s “Good Samaritan Law,” which states that a person who helps an overdosed person get medical assistance cannot be prosecuted on minor drug charges.

However, the lawsuit says Hill was arrested and would be prosecuted unless she helped police apprehend a “dangerous drug dealer”.

A month later, court documents say Hill was driving with suspect ⁠— Mason Farris ⁠— and arranged for police to stop his vehicle and arrest Farris.

However, when officers attempted to stop Hill’s vehicle, Farris attempted to gain control of the vehicle and pressed down on Hill’s leg, causing the vehicle to accelerate and hit one of the officers. An officer then pulled into the car and shot Hill in the head.

Hill died a few days later. After his death, the officers involved were investigated but ultimately cleared of any foul play.

Farris was originally charged with felony murder for Hill’s death, but he pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The lawsuit names the town of Aurora, the town of Marionville and police officers Derek Henson, Derek Zentner, Christopher Kozisek and David Chatman as defendants.

Chatman was the one who fired the shot that killed Hill, according to court documents.

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The lawsuit states that the defendants violated Hill’s Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by violating her rights to “due process” and disregarding her rights to unlawful searches and unlawful detention, by “deceiving her for her to become a confidential informant, and then failing to protect her when she acted in that capacity.

The lawsuit also alleges that Kozisek and Chatman, the two officers present when Hill was shot, used excessive force, stating that “grabbing Savannah by shooting her in the head was objectively unreasonable given the facts and circumstances.” that the defendants were facing when they shot him.”

The lawsuit asks for damages and the family asks for a jury trial.

Hill’s family first filed a similar state-level lawsuit last year, but that lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice in February of this year, according to online court records.

No representative from the City of Aurora, the City of Marionville or the Aurora-Marionville Police Department could be reached for comment. The Hill family’s attorney also could not be reached for comment.

Jordan Meier covers public safety for the Springfield News-Leader. Contact her at jmeier@news-leader.com, or on Twitter @Jordan_Meier644.

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