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Family sues over killing by West Valley police

Man's kin say officer who fired on him was using illegal drugs

The family of a West Valley man who was killed by police in July is suing the city and the officers involved for $1 million.

But it isn't about money, the family says. It's about justice.

"It shouldn't have happened," said Chandra Ousa, daughter of Bounmy Ousa. "It could have been prevented."

Bounmy Ousa was shot to death in front of his home July 7 by West Valley police officer Steven Ward. Police were planning a raid on a suspected drug house nearby, and Ward and another officer had parked their unmarked car in front of the Ousa residence.

Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom told West Valley City Police Chief Buzz Nielsen in September that he didn't intend to prosecute detective Steve Ward for the death of Bounmy Ousa.

A letter to Nielsen states Ward was acting as a peace officer and protecting himself when he shot Ousa on July 7.

"When I heard that they weren't going to press charges, my heart dropped," said Steve Ousa, son of Bounmy Ousa.

Steve Ousa said he watched as his father approached a car with two West Valley detectives inside and saw his father shot at point-blank range.

The police department maintains Bounmy Ousa approached the car with something bulging from his waistband. The officers told Ousa to back away from the car, but they began to fear for their safety and Ward was forced to shoot him, police said.

Attorneys Clark Newhall and Ted McBride filed the Ousas' civil complaint Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

The 53-page complaint alleges the family's constitutional rights to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, due process and equal protection amendments were violated, that Bounmy Ousa's death was wrongful and that police officers engaged in a conspiracy to hide facts about the shooting.

The complaint also states Ward has been using illegal steroids since 2004, that he bought them from a foreign country and that the police department knew about Ward's drug use. The complaint states Ward was using steroids at the time of the shooting and that the West Valley Police Department failed to supervise, discipline and monitor Ward in his capacity as a police officer.

The department "ignored what was a clear danger," Newhall said.

A private investigator hired by Newhall and McBride went to Ward's home and found a small metal pipe with brown residue, several small vials with white crystalline substances and a short straw of the type used for nasal inhalation of illegal substances, the complaint states.

Newhall said he has a source who will testify in court that Ward used illegal drugs.

The complaint states that Ward was one of several officers who shot a man in Midvale in March 2004.

Donald Jeffrey Neuman expected to be killed by police who surrounded his home that night. A note written by Neuman was later found that said he wouldn't go down without a fight. Earlier in the week, he had shot at a West Valley motorcycle officer. And he shot twice at about 12 officers who then killed him.

Five West Valley police officers were placed on administrative leave, as well as three Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies.

The complaint states Ward boasted that he had his "first notch on my belt" and took credit for killing the man because he shot him in the head.

The West Valley City Police Department didn't returns calls for comment Monday or Tuesday.

Newhall and McBride said they hope officers who may know of information regarding the shooting of Bounmy Ousa will come forward.

Newhall said the District Attorney's Office was misled by officers and that investigators accepted officers' stories without taking into account the accounts from Ousa's family.