Parents file wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta federal court over fatal 2022 Buckhead police shooting

Woman standing before mural of her son who was shot
Mya Cullins stands in front of a mural of her 22-year-old son Nygil Cullins, who was shot and killed by Atlanta police in 2022. The mural is at the Nygil M. Cullins Recovery Housing and Community Center in Macon, Georgia. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

The family of Nygil Cullins has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Atlanta two years after police shot and killed him while he was allegedly in mental distress.

Additionally, family members and the Atlanta NAACP are demanding the release of the body camera footage showing the circumstances leading to the 22-year-old man’s death.

The 20-page lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on May 17, alleges civil rights violations, the use of excessive and deadly force, inadequate training and supervision, and negligence. It also names the Buckhead restaurant where the incident occurred and the security company that was hired. 

According to the lawsuit, Cullins was legally carrying a handgun while eating at Fogo de Chao on May 18, 2022, when an employee called 911 to complain that he was there. Cullins had previously worked at the restaurant.

“The APD operator refused to dispatch any police officers to the restaurant because there was no claim or allegation that Cullins was engaged in dangerous or illegal behavior,” the lawsuit says.

But an employee called the police a second time and said that Cullins was armed, which is when two Atlanta police officers, Andrew Strutt and Alex Luebbehusen, were dispatched to the restaurant, according to the lawsuit.

A security guard who was working at the restaurant that day, Tyler Huffman, allegedly gave the police officers false information, suggesting that Cullins posed a physical threat.

So, when the officers approached Cullins, they shocked him with a taser even though he had already sat on the floor with his hands raised. According to the lawsuit, the taser struck Cullins, but he was not disabled.

“The taser strike caused Cullins to experience such panic and fear that he stood up and tried to leave the restaurant without presenting any threat or danger to any person,” the lawsuit says.

Huffman then allegedly tackled and knocked Cullins to the floor, which is when he grabbed Cullins’ handgun in the holster on his belt and caused it to discharge and strike him.

“When the handgun discharged, Strutt and Luebbehusen immediately aimed and fired both of their service firearms at Cullins,” the lawsuit says.

Cullins was one of a record 112 police shootings reported in Georgia in 2022.

An analysis by WABE found nearly half of those were fatal and many were in response to a mental or emotional crisis like the one Cullins’ family has maintained he was suffering.

Georgia and Atlanta chapter NAACP President Gerald Griggs said Cullins was shot at least 10 times.

Meanwhile, authorities have said Cullins was acting unruly at the restaurant and that he was the one who shot the security guard before Atlanta police opened fire.

Griggs and only a few others have been allowed to watch the video of Cullins’ shooting. While the Georgia Bureau of Investigation completed its review of the case last summer, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office still has not fulfilled an open records request for the footage. 

During an interview at the Beyond Your Ordinary: Nygil M. Cullins Recovery Housing and Community Center in Macon, Mya Cullins said she hadn’t given up hope that her son and other families in similar situations will eventually get justice.

“I have about 30 mothers now that I talk to on a regular basis that’s crying, where the same thing happened,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, Cullins’ family is seeking a jury trial and “just compensation” for his wrongful death and attorney fees.

A spokesperson for the city of Atlanta declined to comment due to “potential pending litigation.”