Patterson Belknap Files Lawsuit On Behalf of Family of Tyshon Jones

June 13, 2022

A federal lawsuit was filed on June 8, 2022 on behalf of the family of Tyshon Jones, a young, Black man who was shot and killed last year by the Rochester Police Department while experiencing a mental health crisis. The suit, filed in a New York federal court, alleges that Jones was in acute mental distress the night he was shot five times and killed by an RPD officer. Rather than accommodating his disability, as required by law, the officers exacerbated it, ignoring his obvious need for help, and instead opening fire. RPD’s use of deadly force was not an anomaly, but part of an institutional policy and practice of using unconstitutionally excessive force, particularly against Black people and people with disabilities.

The lawsuit, brought by Jones’ parents in their capacity as administrators of his estate, seeks accountability for the City of Rochester’s violations of Jones’ rights under federal anti-discrimination laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the United States Constitution, and New York state law. According to the complaint, despite the ubiquity of individuals utilizing and needing mental health services, the City of Rochester has failed to adequately train RPD officers on how to serve these community members and equip responding officers with the physical and tactical tools to accommodate those experiencing mental health crises while avoiding subjecting them to excessive force. This indifference to the obvious need for appropriate training and supervision has had severe, and often fatal, implications for Rochester’s communities of color, including for Jones.

“Tyshon’s death last year at the hands of the Rochester Police Department has left a hole in our family that can never be repaired,” said Jones’ parents, Kennetha Short and Pernell Jones Sr. “Sadly, we are not the only parents in our community who have experienced tremendous pain at losing a child at the hands of the police. While this lawsuit cannot bring Tyshon back, we are seeking justice and reform so that other families never have to experience what we have endured.”

Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and Kaufman Lieb Lebowitz Frick LLP are representing the Jones family in the matter.

“It is clear to us already that the City of Rochester and Rochester Police Department have not lived up to their commitment to providing officers with appropriate training for engaging with mentally disabled individuals,” said Muhammad Faridi, a partner at Patterson Belknap and co-counsel for Jones’ estate. “We seek justice, for the Jones family, for Rochester’s communities of color, and for all Rochester citizens and their loved ones who are touched by mental illness.”

Alanna Kaufman, partner at KLLF and co-counsel for Jones’ estate, added: “The City failed both Mr. Jones and its own officers, and must be held accountable. However tragic, this situation presents an opportunity for reform and the chance to equip officers with proper training, so they are better served to assist the mentally ill in the future.”

Approximately 52.9 million people in the United States experienced mental illness in 2020. Despite the prevalence of mental illness, less than half of adults in the United States suffering from a mental illness received treatment in 2020. Studies have also shown that interactions between the mentally ill and police have become not only more common, but also deadlier. Over the last few years, the prevalence of these deadly encounters has underscored the need to train police officers on how to interact with civilians suffering from mental health episodes. 

The case is Kennetha Short and Pernell Jones, Sr., in their capacity as administrators of the Estate of Tyshon Jones v. City of Rochester, in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York.