Wrongful-death lawsuit claims Beaumont covered up officer’s excessive force

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The parents of a young man killed in 2016 by a Beaumont police officer have sued the city, claiming that city officials tried to cover up excessive force that led to his death, the Beaumont Enterprise reported.

The parents of Chaz York, 23, of Vidor, allege that the city condoned a “code of silence” to cover up the incident, the newspaper reported. 

Reports of the incident indicated York was involved in an altercation outside Madison’s bar on Dowlen Road and that Chase Welch, an off-duty officer, tried to defuse the situation and shot York after he was threatened.

But the lawsuit claims that York was sucker-punched by another patron and followed out of the bar by Welch and two of Madison’s employees. As York walked to his car, he had a confrontation with an ex-girlfriend and exchanged words with Welch and the employees, the lawsuit says.

The document claims that Welch threatened and taunted York after he got into his car and that Welch shot eight to 10 times at York with his Glock handgun as York emerged from the car and tried to run away.

The lawsuit states that witnesses saw Welch ran from the scene after the shooting.   

The Enterprise reported that a Jefferson County grand jury cleared Welch of wrongdoing, but he later resigned from the police department.

In the lawsuit, the York family claims Welch demonstrated a pattern of questionable behavior before he shot Chaz York. That includes shooting a man who was holding a gun to his own head — another case in which Welch was cleared of wrongdoing.

“By allowing a policy ‘code of silence’ to cover up officers’ use of excessive force, especially Officer Welch, by fabricating accounts to the media and in official reports and internal affairs investigations, the city has exhibited a custom or policy of covering up constitutional violations,” the lawsuit says. “As part of this official policy or custom, Officer Welch used excessive deadly force with the knowledge that no disciplinary action would be taken against him by the Police Department.” 

Beaumont police Chief James Singletary declined to comment to the newspaper on the lawsuit.

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