PHOENIX — The family of a former NFL football player fatally shot by police is suing the officers and the City of Phoenix in federal court.
Ekom Udofia was shot in November 2020 after Phoenix officers found him wandering in the street near Indian School Road and 23rd Avenue in the middle of the night.
Officers first shot Udofia when he approached a police car with a realistic-looking BB gun in his hand. Police fired on him several more times with bullets, pepper balls and beanbags while he laid on the ground groaning with the gun still in his hand. Phoenix police said Udofia did point the gun in the direction of officers and ignored calls to drop the weapon.
After growing up in Scottsdale, Udofia played football at Stanford University, and he spent a short time in the NFL, mostly with the New Orleans Saints. Friends described him as a 'gentle' giant. He also played professional football in Canada.
Udofia suffered from mental health issues, and a 911 caller reported he was in crisis, according to a civil rights lawsuit his parents filed against the City of Phoenix.
The Udofia family's claims include wrongful death, excessive force, and negligent hiring, supervision, and training. Their lawsuit said, "Ekom was unnecessarily and inhumanely peppered by as many as thirty projectiles," and it took 22 minutes for officers to say the scene was secure and medical aid was rendered.
The lawsuit also said Udofia had a right to hold a gun in an open-carry state, and he was not suspected of a crime when officers arrived.
The lawsuit was originally filed in Maricopa County Superior Court in November 2021, but the case was moved to Federal court last month. Phoenix has not yet filed a Federal court response.
According to the Maricopa County Attorney's website, the shooting is still under criminal review to determine whether the officers' actions were justified.