Family Of Man Killed During Last Year's Spring Break Sues City

One day before Black Spring Break 2001 kicks off, the family of a Columbia man who was shot to death on his way to last year's party has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city of Gulfport and the two officers involved in the shooting.

Officer Brian Donavant shot 20-year old Mitchell Virgil Junior to death on April 8th. Last June a Harrison County Grand Jury cleared Donavant and Bennett of any wrongdoing in Virgil's death.

Attorney LaQuetta Golden filed the suit late Thursday afternoon in Harrison County Circuit Court on behalf of Mitchell Virgil's parents. It is a wrongful death suit that accuses the city and the two officers of acting without probable cause, denying Virgil his constitutional rights, and of restraining and harassing Virgil.

Officer Brian Donavant stopped the truck Virgil was a passenger in on April 8th on Highway 49. Donavant and Officer Bill Bennett say they found a loaded .45 caliber pistol in the truck. The officers say they also found a loaded 357 magnum pistol in Virgil's pocket that they say he refused to give up, even after repeated warnings from Donavant.

The suit says "During the search, Defendants Donavant and Bennett realized Virgil had a weapon and Bennett then placed Virgil in a choke hold. Next, Donavant stepped back, pulled his revolver and fired one shot through the decedent's left fourth finger, one shot through the left upper chest, one shot into the left upper chest as the decedent fell to the ground."

Donovant was put on administrative leave during the investigation of the shooting.

Gulfport City Attorney Harry Hewes says the city will have a "full and complete defense."