Cleveland police officer sues city, ex-partner who shot her during 2020 investigation

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 9:14 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A Cleveland police officer is suing the city and her former partner two years after she was shot by him while responding to a call.

The federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday.

“I want justice for Jenny. I want some recognition from the city that what happened to her was not right,” said attorney Matthew Besser. “On a larger scale, I think what Jenny really wants is to make sure this doesn’t happen again. To make sure that her fellow officers know when they go out there that their partner is going to have their back.”

Officer Jennifer Kilnapp and her partner, Officer Bailey Gannon, responded to a report of domestic violence on East 81st Street in July of 2020.

On Gannon’s body worn camera, obtained by 19 News, a woman inside the home could be heard telling the officers that the male suspect was armed.

The footage later shows the officers encountering the man, who was allegedly holding a gun at his side.

That’s when gunshots were fired.

Kilnapp was shot in the arm.

The bullet fragmented into her bicep and her chest, lodging near her spine, Besser said.

“I wish I could forget the feeling of thinking I was going to die,” Kilnapp said last year. “I wish I could forget seeing all the blood rushing out of my body and the excruciating amount of pain I felt that day.”

The suspect, Darryl Borden, was originally charged with attempted murder, but testing later revealed Kilnapp was shot by her partner, Gannon.

“The forensic examination at the scene shows no bullets from Borden fired even remotely in Kilnapp’s direction,” the lawsuit contends, referencing Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation evidence. “Borden fired from inside the bathroom into the bathroom door before the bullets landed in the wall opposite him. Kilnapp was never in Borden’s line of fire.”

“There was no body camera footage showing Borden shooting at Kilnapp, or even in her direction. Gannon claimed to homicide detectives that when he opened the door, Borden was holding a gun in two hands and pointing it at the door. Upon information and belief, the subsequent investigation proved that Gannon’s account of the shooting could not possibly be true,” the complaint stated.

Borden ultimately pleaded guilty to attempted felonious assault and was sentenced to six to nine years in prison.

Referencing police bodycam footage and BCI evidence, Besser argued that Gannon’s reckless actions led to Kilnapp being wounded.

“Gannon pointed his gun over his head, in the opposite direction he was running, and began firing blindly behind him,” he said. “Any gun user knows one of the most basic rules of gun safety is that you never point a gun at someone without knowing who might be in the line of fire. By choosing to ignore that basic gun-safety rule, Gannon caused devastating consequences. Unfortunately, his conduct reflects CDP’s ongoing culture of excessive force and its longstanding failure to adequately train rookies on the appropriate use-of-force.”

Gannon, Chief Wayne Drummond, and the City of Cleveland are all named in the lawsuit.

19 News has not reviewed official disciplinary files, but Besser claimed Kilnapp was suspended because she didn’t turn her body worn camera on when entering the home.

The department never disciplined Gannon, according to the complaint.

A city spokesperson told 19 News they couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, per city policy.

Kilnapp is still a Cleveland police officer, but has not returned to work due to her injuries, Besser said.

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