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Family of Detroit man killed by federal agent files $50 million civil lawsuit

Kevin Kellon, right, with his grandson and the family's lawyer Nabih Ayad.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Kevin Kellon, right, with his grandson and the family's lawyer Nabih Ayad.

A federal agent had “no justifiable excuse or reason to shoot 20-year-old Terrance Kellom” at his father’s Detroit home in April 2015.

That’s what Kellom’s family said in a civil wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday.

The suit names Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Mitchell Quinn, and two Detroit police officers as defendants. Quinn is the officer who shot and killed Terrance Kellom.

The officers say Kellom dropped through a hole in the ceiling, and advanced on them with a hammer.

But Kellom’s family witnessed the shooting. They say he was led downstairs after officers found him in the house, and was “unarmed and had his hands in the air” when Quinn shot him.

“My son never had a hammer,” said Kevin Kellom, Terrance’s father. “If my son had a hammer, why wouldn't I then do the fatherly thing and just simply say, ‘Son, put it down?’”

Kellom questioned why members of the multi-agency Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Task Force had to raid his home to arrest his son, who was wanted for armed robbery.

“If he done wrong, you arrest him. Take him to jail,” Kellom said. “Let him get charged, and go from there. Let justice prevail. Not shoot him down in front of his family.”

The Kelloms’ lawyer, Nabih Ayad, portrayed Quinn as an out-of-control officer with a history of violence.

Quinn, a former Detroit police officer, faced criminal charges in 2008 for allegedly aiming a loaded gun at his ex-wife’s head. According to the lawsuit, he was then suspended from the Detroit Police Department, and hired by ICE six months later.

As for the multiple agency investigations that found Kellom’s shooting to be justified, including the Michigan State Police and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Ayad said: “We don’t trust it. It’s all suspect.”

After shooting Kellom, Quinn and officers Darrell Fitzgerald and Treva Eaton then “intentionally conspired to cover up their unlawful and unconstitutional acts by providing false and fictitious information to the authorities and to the media regarding the shooting of Terrance,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit seeks $50 million in punitive damages, which Kevin Kellom says will go to support Terrance’s 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.

But Ayad says the intent is also to send a message and create a “chilling effect” among law enforcement: “We want to punish those individuals. Having “a gun and a badge does not make you above the law. We want answers.”

The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in Detroit federal court. Ayad says the intent is to take the case “all the way” to a jury trial.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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