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Cleveland cop sues fellow officer, claims he used excessive force when he shot her

Jennifer Kilnapp accused city and police officials of lying about the circumstances surrounding the shooting


Cleveland Police Department

By Adam Ferrise

CLEVELAND, Ohio— A Cleveland police officer sued her former partner and accused him of using excessive force when he shot her when the two responded to a call for a man with a gun.

Jennifer Kilnapp, in her lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Cleveland, accused city and police officials of lying about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and wrongfully charging the man police arrested.

She also accused the city of failing to properly train its new officers and unfairly disciplining her, while her partner — then-rookie officer Bailey Gannon — never faced discipline for the July 20, 2020, shooting.

City spokeswoman Marie Zickefoose said the city does not comment on pending litigation. Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeff Follmer said he’s still looking into the situation.

Gannon remains an active police officer. Kilnapp is still unable to return to active duty because of her injuries, according to the lawsuit.

The bullet fired by Gannon ripped through Kilnapp’s forearm. Bullet fragments lodged in her bicep and chest, near her spine, according to her attorneys, Matthew Besser and Cathleen Bolek. Two years later, she still has nerve damage in her arm, wrist and hand. She also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

The shooting happened at a boarding house on East 81st Street after a woman called police and reported a man was acting strange and had fired a bullet into the floor. Kilnapp and Gannon arrived, and the man — Daryl Borden — was inside a bathroom with the door closed.

Police and prosecutors for more than a year called the shooting an “ambush” by Borden. They said when the officers opened the door, Borden fired at them, hitting Kilnapp. A SWAT team later arrested Borden, and prosecutors charged him with attempted murder.

The lawsuit said homicide investigators began to suspect the day of the shooting that Gannon may have shot his partner.

A crime scene analysis by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and more investigation later found that Gannon shot Kilnapp. A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge sentenced Borden to seven to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to attempted murder of a police officer, and a federal judge ordered him to an additional four years and eight months in prison for possessing a weapon with a felony record.

Court testimony and the lawsuit showed a different version of events that the official statements.

Gannon, according to the lawsuit and testimony, walked up to the bathroom door and never announced his presence as a police officer. He also never asked Borden to come out of the room. He opened the door and saw Borden standing with a gun in his hand.

He took cover behind a wall, then ran down the stairs, screaming while firing his gun over his head and indiscriminately in Borden’s direction, according to the lawsuit. The bullet hit Kilnapp. Borden later fired shots, but not at Kilnapp or Borden, the lawsuit said. Investigators determined Gannon shot first.

Gannon continued running outside after he fired the shots, and Kilnapp yelled after him: “I’m shot. I’m shot. Don’t leave me.”

The lawsuit says Gannon — whose father is a Cleveland police supervisor— lied to investigators, but he was never disciplined for that or the shooting. Kilnapp was suspended without pay for one day for failing to turn on her body camera.

Gannon’s supervisor three months later gave him high marks for performance and said the shooting was a “minor setback,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Gannon should have known to de-escalate the situation, call for backup or try and coax Borden out of the bathroom peacefully. Citing the consent-decree monitoring team reports in 2020 and 2021, the lawsuit also accused the city of failing to properly train both current and new officers. Those reports said the city lagged in its training of officers on excessive force and de-escalation tactics.

“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,” Besser said in a statement.

“By choosing to ignore that basic gun-safety rule, Gannon caused devastating consequences. Unfortunately, his conduct reflects [the Cleveland Division of Police’s] ongoing culture of excessive force and its longstanding failure to adequately train rookies on the appropriate use-of-force.”

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