Dayton police, city face lawsuit in deaths of woman, 6-year-old daughter

The family of a 31-year-old woman and her 6-year-old daughter who were found dead in a Dayton basement this summer have filed a lawsuit against Dayton, the city’s police chief and two officers arguing the deaths were preventable.

Aisha Nelson and her daughter Harper Guynn were found shot to death in a Burleigh Avenue home on June 23. The suspect, Nelson’s boyfriend Dante Hawes, was found dead in a vehicle in the Huntsville, Alabama, area of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to police.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on Monday, claims police failed to protect Nelson and Guynn from “physical and emotional harm, resulting in their needless, tragic deaths.”

ExploreRELATED: Body cameras show domestic dispute hours before mother, daughter killed in Dayton

The City of Dayton, Dayton City Commission, Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal, Officer Kathryn Santos and Officer Terrell Moore were named as defendants in the lawsuit, as well as 10 John and Jane Doe(s) who are supervisors, managers, case workers and screeners whose identities are not known. Patricia Wilkinson, administrator of Nelson and Guynn’s estates, is the plaintiff and attorneys Michael Wright and Robert Gresham of Wright & Schulte, LLC are representing the family.

During a press conference Tuesday, Gresham claimed Dayton officers failed to follow department policy when they responded to the Burleigh Avenue home.

Around 1:50 a.m. on June 23, nearly 12 hours before Nelson and Guynn were found dead, Officers Santos and Moore arrived at the home on a report of domestic dispute.

Police body camera footage showed officers talking to Nelson and Hawes separately. Both said they had been fighting and were not interested in continuing their relationship.

The footage showed Nelson telling police Hawes had a gun and asking police if they could make him leave for the night. Officers said Hawes was asked to stay in the basement.

“After only 30 minutes of talking to Aisha and Mr. Hawes, these officers made no decisions and simply left the location,” Gresham said. “...These officers failed this family, they failed Aisha and they failed Harper. Because less than an hour after leaving that location, Aisha and Harper were dead.”

By filing the lawsuit, the family is seeking accountability and answers from the city and Dayton Police Department, as well as changes to how the department investigates domestic violence claims, Gresham said.

“At a minimum the policy should’ve required one or all the parties be removed from the residence,” he added.

The lawsuit claims police failed to follow proper procedures, perform comprehensive risk assessments and investigate reports of domestic violence and threats of violence when they responded to the Burleigh Avenue home.

It also alleges the city fails to provide adequate training and supervision to officers in domestic violence calls.

ExploreRELATED: Dayton police responded to domestic dispute hours before mother, daughter found dead

“This has been extremely hard on me and my family,” said Nelson’s mother, Keeley Nelson. “The impact that weighs on us, I can’t even explain it.”

Tangia Nelson, Aisha Nelson’s older sister, said if officers had responded properly, Hawes would also be alive, in addition to Nelson and Guynn.

“They failed us,” she said. “They failed his family as well.”

Since losing her daughter and granddaughter, Keely Nelson said the holidays have been difficult and the family doesn’t plan to celebrate Christmas.

“I just ask that we get what we deserve and that nobody else has to go through this,” she said.

The Dayton Police Department said that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

About the Author