Des Moines IA Aug 2 2017 A Norwalk man whose vehicle was shot at by a security guard while he was leaving Water Works Park earlier this year filed a lawsuit Monday against the security guard's employer and Des Moines Water Works.
Scott Richardson, 50, is suing On Point Security Group and the Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees for negligence, assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction and emotional distress for the May 14 incident.
A charge of operating while intoxicated that had been filed against Richardson has been dropped. He instead pleaded guilty to trespassing in the park after hours.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Polk County, does not specify a monetary award but demands a jury trial for the defendants' "outrageous conduct" that caused Richardson "extreme or severe emotional distress."
"Des Moines Water Works and its contracted security team could hardly have mishandled matters more," said Richardson's attorney, Brad Schroeder. "From their efforts to unlawfully force Mr. Richardson to stop his vehicle as he was peaceably leaving the park, through the gunshots fired at Mr. Richardson, On Point's actions are a portrait of recklessness and incompetence."
Peter Berger, an attorney representing On Point Security Group, said he has not yet seen the lawsuit, and is "unable to comment at this time." Bill Stowe, general manager of Des Moines Water Works, issued a brief statement but declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit.
"We have great faith and appreciation for the legal system," he said. "This is a matter ultimately that involves a contractor's employee, so we'll let the system work through this dispute and determine what the facts are under the eyes of the law."
On Point Security Group, a Clive-based company, is in its third year of a five-year contract with Des Moines Water Works to provide security services at the utility's water treatment facilities and the park, 2201 George Flagg Parkway.
On Point provides 24/7 armed security there and also conducts nightly checks at the utility's Saylorville and Maffitt Reservoir treatment facilities.
According to a Des Moines police report, Eugene McGrath Jr. allegedly fired three rounds from a 9mm handgun into a 2013 Jeep Wrangler driven by Richardson.
Richardson was leaving the park at about 1 a.m., three hours after it had closed, when the On Point Security vehicle pulled up behind him with amber lights flashing.
When Richardson didn't stop, the car pulled around him and blocked the exit.
That's when McGrath reportedly fired his weapon at Richardson's car.
McGrath told police he feared for his life as Richardson drove erratically toward the locked gate. Richardson said he was driving the speed limit and, though he knew the park was closed, was heading toward a gate that had a sensor to open it.
The lawsuit claims security video from Water Works Park confirms Richardson "did not drive erratically, recklessly or out of control."
The Register has not independently viewed the park's security footage.
The lawsuit alleges McGrath "acted with a reckless disregard" toward Richardson's life when he decided to fire his weapon. One of the bullets struck the footwell of the Jeep's passenger compartment, coming close to striking him, the lawsuit said.
McGrath then moved to the driver's side of Richardson's car, pointed his gun at him and ordered him to put his hands up. A second security guard, Samuel Groenenboom, placed Richardson in handcuffs.
Des Moines Water Works is being sued on an additional count of negligent hiring of an independent contractor. The lawsuit claims Water Works has an obligation to the public to hire a "competent and careful contractor" because of the dangerous nature of carrying weapons.
On Point Security Group faces an independent charge of negligence for failing to adopt proper procedures and firearms training.
"We look forward to learning how these people were hired, and why they were given loaded guns with directions to shoot at people under these circumstances," Schroeder said.
According to On Point's proposal to Des Moines Water Works, the company's security guards must complete 12 classifications of training to be an armed security officer. That training includes a gun defense class and weapons courses through the National Rifle Association.
Close to 90 percent of the security officers employed at On Point are former military or law enforcement or are currently serving in the Iowa National Guard, the proposal says.
On Point charges Des Moines Water Works $22 an hour, plus $15 per patrol stop for its security services.
McGrath was charged with reckless use of a firearm causing property damage, an aggravated misdemeanor, in July. If convicted, he could lose his private security license and right to carry within the state.
Groenenboom has not been charged.
Richardson initially was charged with operating while intoxicated after he had been out with friends riding bikes to downtown bars and restaurants and then got into his car to drive home.
A preliminary breath test showed Richardson's blood- alcohol content at .106. He registered .088 on a second breath test taken an hour later.
The charge was dismissed without prejudice Thursday, with Richardson ordered to pay court costs.
Des Moines Register