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Mother of man shot to death at Kroger files suit

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The mother of an Indianapolis man fatally shot in December by a Kroger manager during what police determined was an attempted robbery is suing the supermarket chain for wrongful death.

Toni Atkinson filed her lawsuit July 13 in federal court in Indianapolis on behalf of her son, Jeremi Atkinson, 26, who was shot at the Kroger store at 5025 W. 71st St. on Dec. 26.

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in early January ruled the shooting by Kroger manager Elijah “Levi” Elliott to be justified under Indiana law to prevent a forcible felony. Elliott, 24, resigned from Kroger about a month later.

The wrongful death suit charges that the Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. was negligent for failing to supervise its employees and enforce its safety policies, which prohibit employees from carrying firearms while on duty.

“As a direct and proximate result of Kroger’s negligence,” the suit says, “Atkinson is deceased and the plaintiff has suffered harm.”

The complaint acknowledges that an “altercation” occurred between Atkinson and a Kroger employees but makes no mention of the attempted robbery.

Police, who talked to witnesses and reviewed surveillance video, said Atkinson was shot after he forced an unarmed female security guard into the store’s office by putting an object in her back and placing her in a headlock. When Elliott responded to cries for help, Atkinson released the woman and charged at Elliott, who shot Atkinson.

Atkinson was wearing a mask and and a hoodie during the incident, but police did not say if was carrying a firearm. He was taken to Wishard Hospital in critical condition and died several hours later.

Kroger spokesman John Elliott said this week that the company was unaware of the lawsuit.

“Thus, our legal department has not had an opportunity to review the filing,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “Until we complete that internal review and possibly consult with additional legal counsel, which could be a lengthy process, we are not able to comment publicly on the suit.”

Atkinson was convicted in 2009 of armed robbery for holding up a Subway restaurant on North Keystone Avenue. He was sentenced to four years in prison and was let go on work release before a warrant was issued for his arrest in February 2011 for violating terms of his release, prosecutors said.

His mother is represented by Jon C. Abernathy of the Indianapolis law firm Goodin Abernathy LLP. Abernathy said he had no comment on the lawsuit.

Drew Miroff, a partner at Ice Miller LLP whose practice includes premises liability and risk management issues, said the case will be difficult to win.

“A violation of a company policy is not necessarily negligence,” he said. “They’re going to have to prove that there was a failure to supervise their employees by not enforcing the policy.”

 

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  • Policy
    Kroger isn't wrong for failiing to enforce their policy, they are wrong for having that policy in the first place. The violation of that policy prevented a serious, violent felony from taking place. It is tragic that the young man lost his life, but it was as a result of his own actions it attempting an armed robbery. He is the only one responsible for the events which transpired.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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