Widow of disabled US Army veteran killed by deputies files federal lawsuit

A U.S. military policy that blocks HIV-positive service members from being commissioned as officers has "no rational basis," a federal judge said in declining to throw out claims brought by graduates of the Air Force and Navy academies. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The widow of a disabled veteran shot and killed by deputies serving him with involuntary commitment papers in 2020 filed a federal lawsuit last month against Cumberland County and the deputies who shot her husband.

Sabara Fisher-Roberts, wife of Adrian Roberts, 37, filed the action in U.S. District Court on Sept. 3, alleging the deputies illegally entered Roberts’ home and “shot him dead” while attempting to serve the order she’d requested.

Roberts enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001 and was honorably discharged in 2005 after he was deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the lawsuit states.

He was receiving 100% disability from the U.S. Army for issues related to a head injury he sustained while deployed to Iraq and for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2012, Roberts began seeking treatment for his mental health issues, which included in-patient stays related to feelings of paranoia.

In October of 2014, he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, auditory hallucinations, PTSD, and depression, the lawsuit states.

Roberts actively continued to seek treatment up until his death in 2020, the lawsuit states.

In June 2020, about two months before his death, Roberts had a virtual visit with the VA for a mental health follow-up and medication management, during which he reported that COVID-19 and the riots following the death of George Floyd were causing hypervigilance, paranoia and flashbacks, the lawsuit states.

In the weeks leading up to his death, the lawsuit states, Roberts was becoming increasingly paranoid and his wife was attempting to get him into treatment

After an unsuccessful attempt by VA mobile crisis unit to make contact with Roberts in order to evaluate him, Fisher-Roberts went to a magistrate to issue an involuntary commitment order, which was to be carried out by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Fisher-Roberts informed the magistrate and the Sheriff’s Office that her husband was suffering from multiple mental illnesses and that there were no firearms or other people in the house with her husband, the lawsuit states.

“The magistrate informed Ms. Roberts that she should be present when the deputies go to open the door because ‘they can’t force their way in,'” the complaint.

But while Fisher-Roberts was retrieving a key from a relative to enter the home, the sheriff’s office deployed a SWAT team to the house to serve the involuntary commitment order, according to the complaint.

“Defendants (deputies) P.A. Hernandez, P. Sansome, J. Evans, D. Doody, L. Fermin, R. Murphy, R. Stallings, and C. Parker equipped themselves with body armor and M4 assault rifles to serve an involuntary commitment order on a disabled, mentally unstable, unarmed veteran,” the lawsuit states.

Upon arrival, deputies determined that Roberts was in the house, but refused to open the door.

“Upon entering the home, the deputies opened fired and killed Adrian Roberts,” the complaint states.

According to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the shooting, Roberts allegedly “charged” at the deputies with a machete.

The lawsuit alleges that the deputies violated Roberts’ Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully entering his house and using “excessive and deadly force” which resulted in Roberts’ death.

“The excessive and deadly force used by the Deputy Defendants was not objectively reasonable, justified, nor was it necessary under the circumstances,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges that the deputies violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by failing to “provide reasonable modifications to its policies and practices to accommodate Adrian Roberts’ disability-related needs when attempting to serve the involuntary commitment order.”

Fisher-Roberts is asking for damages in excess of $10 million.


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