Family sues Macon sheriff, deputy for wrongful death
Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland is being sued for wrongful death after his deputy Anthony Momphard Jr. shot and killed Scott Knibbs in his home a year ago.
According to the civil lawsuit filed in federal court last week, Scott’s widow Melissa Knibbs is seeking $75,000 in damages against the sheriff, the deputy and Western Surety Company, the sheriff’s liability bond provider, for wrongful death and violations of Scott’s constitutional rights under the Second, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Since Scott’s death, the family has been represented by Waynesville attorneys Adam and Mark Melrose with Melrose Law Firm.
The tragic incident shook the community last April with different stories coming from Holland and testimony from family witnesses. Momphard shot Scott several times around midnight April 30 through the front window of his home. Momphard was cleared of any wrongdoing last August by District Attorney Greg Newman following a review of the State Bureau of Investigations findings.
While Melrose painted Knibbs as a good man with a history of community involvement and even completed law enforcement training, the sheriff’s department reported that Scott had been confrontational and refused to lower his weapon when Momphard approached the house in response to a 911 call from a neighbor.
On April 29, Scott was at his Pheasant Drive home with his wife, his 21-year-old daughter, his 13-year-old son and his 5-month-old grandchild. According to the complaint, the Knibbs neighbor up the road was having a party and around 10 p.m. one of the neighbor’s visitors mistakenly pulled into the Knibbs’ driveway. Scott and the visitor exchanged words and Scott directed him to leave.
It was allegedly not the first time the Knibbs had taken issue with the renters hosting parties and people driving too fast down the narrow dirt road. Scott had placed wooden boards in the road as “makeshift speed bumps” to slow down the vehicles so they wouldn’t be a hazard for his children and grandchildren playing in the yard. Around 11:40 p.m. the neighbors called 911 reporting the boards in the road had nails in them and their visitors couldn’t leave. Momphard was dispatched and parked his patrol car on the road before he approached the Knibbs’ home at 11:55 p.m. The lawsuit states the vehicle couldn’t be seen from the house and that the deputy didn’t trigger any sirens, lights or horns to announce his arrival.
After meeting with the neighbors and getting the boards removed from the road so people could leave, Momphard and one of the neighbors approached the Knibbs’ home.
“Upon information and belief, Momphard, without regard for the late hour or the fact that the entirety of the dispute was, as he described it, a civil ‘right of way dispute,’ decided to roust the Knibbs family out of bed,” the lawsuit states.
Since Momphard didn’t move his patrol car, activate lights or sirens or otherwise “adequately” announce his presence on the Knibbs’ property at such a late hour, the lawsuit claims the deputy acted recklessly and created a dangerous situation.
However, in Newman’s report clearing the deputy of wrongdoing, he stated Momphard did announce himself at the door and didn’t get a response. Newman also reported Momphard heard someone rack a round in a shotgun inside the home and yelled for the person to put down the weapon three times. When he shined the flashlight into the home, Momphard allegedly saw Scott pointing the shotgun at him before he opened fire.
The complaint also points out that it’s not unusual for a rural Macon County homeowner to answer the door with a firearm in hand for his own protection.
After hearing two unknown voices on his front porch, Scott got out of bed and grabbed his shotgun before heading to the front door. Scott allegedly couldn’t see who was on the porch because the deputy was shining a flashlight through the window and still didn’t identify himself.
“As soon as Scott rounded the corner from his bedroom to the living room to answer the door, Defendant Momphard opened fire through the front window of the Knibbs’ residence,” the lawsuit stated.
It goes on to say Scott didn’t point his shotgun at Momphard or threaten him in any way. He then allegedly broke open the door and stood over Scott with his gun still drawn. The suit also claims the deputy pointed the gun at Melissa when she came into the living room crying and wouldn’t let her give aid to her husband.
“Momphard directed Melissa and Megan (his daughter) into a corner. The only thing they could do was watch helplessly as Scott bled out and died on his own living room floor,” it stated.
The complaint states Holland is also responsible in Scott’s death because he hired a “substandard” officer that wasn’t properly trained and because he went on TV and defended the deputy’s actions to the press immediately following the shooting.