Gipp’s family filed a federal lawsuit in September 2019 seeking damages for the alleged use of excessive force by BIA officers Raymond Webb and Gary Sandland in Gipp’s death.
Gipp, a 35-year-old father of three, died from gunshot wounds to the “chest and lower extremity,” according to his death certificate, which lists his death as a homicide.
Court documents filed May 12 offer some details about the two BIA officers’ version of events that day. The officers denied wrongdoing and said Gipp’s injuries and damages were caused “by his own conduct or the conduct of others,” according to the documents.
On Oct. 23, 2017, Gipp and his parents were returning home from turkey hunting and stopped at a gas station in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Gipp accidentally discharged his shotgun at the gas station when he tried to eject a shell, and no one was in the vicinity of where the gun was pointed, according to a complaint filed by the family. The family said the shotgun was the only weapon in the vehicle.
The family began driving home when the BIA officers pulled over the vehicle after the officers were called about the gunshot. Before the family stopped the vehicle, Gipp threw the shotgun out of the window “to play it safe,” according to the family’s complaint.
Gipp’s family says he was unarmed when the officers jolted him with a Taser and shot him “despite absolutely no justification,” the family’s complaint states.
In recent court filings, attorneys for the two officers say Webb was the only one to fire his gun during the “high-risk” stop, and that Webb’s actions were justified given the circumstances.
“Ryan Gipp assumed the risk of injury or death by resisting arrest and not complying with lawful orders of law enforcement,” according to court documents filed by the federal government, which is listed as a defendant in the family’s lawsuit along with the two officers.
In a response to the lawsuit, the federal government denied many of the family’s allegations, including the claim that Gipp was unarmed and nonthreatening.
After Webb and Sandland pulled over the vehicle, the officers told Gipp to exit the vehicle and walk backward toward the officers with his hands in the air, but Gipp didn’t comply, according to the government’s response.
Law enforcement found the shotgun Gipp threw out the window, which had a blade and a flashlight taped to the barrel in a “bayonet style,” according to the government’s response.
The government also said the shotgun was not the only weapon available to Gipp. “Numerous other weapons and weapons accessories” were in the vehicle, including nunchucks, knives, brass knuckles, ammunition and magazines for various kinds of guns, according to the government’s response.
The federal government and the two officers say the evidence to support the family’s claims is not sufficient, and they are asking the court to dismiss the case.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at [email protected]