PEORIA — The mother of a man shot and killed last spring by a Tazewell County deputy is suing the county and the city of Mackinaw, alleging the officers who responded weren't properly trained to deal with a mentally ill person.

"Mrs. Brown and her family feel strongly that if properly trained officers had responded to her call for help, her son would still be alive,” said Shawn Barnett, one of the attorneys on the case. "The family is also urging the Tazewell Sheriff’s Office to implement a crisis intervention training program to prevent future incidents like the one that cost Matthew his life.” 

Matthew G. Brown, 18, died on April 20, 2018, after being shot by Tazewell County Sheriff’s Deputy Bradley Eccles, the suit alleges. Deputies were sent to Brown’s home at 34368 Illinois Route 9, about three miles east of Mackinaw, about 9:30 a.m. after a 911 call reporting a man armed with an ax and a knife was trying to break into a gun cabinet, then-Sheriff Robert Huston stated in a news release at the time of the incident.

The wrongful death suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Peoria on Tuesday, names Eccles, the county, the city of Mackinaw, the Sheriff's Office, current Sheriff Jeff Lower and Mackinaw police Officer William Dorn as well as Deputy Randy Davis.

In the suit, Susan Brown, Matthew's mother, claims that her son was no threat to the officers and was shot while he was complying with their orders. At the time, officials said Brown had pointed a weapon at them and that shots were fired in self-defense. Rather, she said, he had been released from an area hospital after being treated for mental health issues. The suit said on April 20, he was having a "mental health crisis," which is what led his mother to call police.

His mother, the suit said, "asked for an ambulance to take Matthew to the hospital for immediate mental health treatment. During the call, she alerted the dispatcher that Matthew may be at risk of self-harm."

Eccles and the two other officers followed Brown into the home's basement and ordered him to put down his weapon. Brown, the suit said, started to comply, and that prompted Davis to holster his sidearm and draw his Taser. The red dot from the Taser, the suit said, caused Brown "severe mental distress."

"At no time while he was in the basement did Matthew do any action that would have justified the use of deadly force against him. Nonetheless, (Eccles) started firing his weapon at Matthew, who was not an immediate threat to (Eccles) or (Davis)," the suit said, noting that nine shots were fired.

Stu Umholtz, the state's attorney for Tazewell County, said in a prepared statement that he had last year determined "that the use of deadly force by Deputy Eccles was lawfully justified."

"In no way does my finding diminish the loss of life for the Brown family, but acknowledges the reality of the situation from a legal viewpoint," Umholtz said.

Eccles passed away last year while recovering from a surgery that was both unrelated to the incident with Brown and unrelated to his official duties.