Updated: 6:20 p.m.
The family of a 10-year-old boy who was fatally shot in 2019 while attending a South Jersey high school football game is suing the district and the state governing body for school athletics.
“What we’re going to do is get justice for ‘Dew,’” proclaimed the family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, referring to Micah “Dew” Tennant.
Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, the man killed by a Minnesota police officer, announced the lawsuit on Tuesday afternoon at a park in Atlantic City named for Micah.
“Dew should be here playing in this park,” Crump said. “He should be playing with his siblings, his classmates. He should not be taken from this earth, breaking this family’s heart.”
The family’s lawsuit against the Pleasantville Board of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) alleges they failed to ensure safe conditions at the game between the Pleasantville and Camden high schools.
The family contends that security at Pleasantville High School had been a consistent problem before Micah’s death.
“There were hundreds, literally hundreds … of calls to that school for various security issues over the years,” said Devon Jacob, a Mechanicsburg, Pa. attorney who has worked with Crump on previous suits, including on behalf of Floyd’s family. There have been between 700 and 800 police calls to the school since 2017, Jacob added.
“If you think about that, that means there was 7- to 800 times that the school board could have stopped and said, ‘Is this built safely? Is this OK up here? Seven- to 800 times they missed the boat and that can’t happen,” Jacob said.
The lawsuit alleges that Pleasantville High School, where the football game took place, “has been subject to a well-documented elevated level of criminal activity” for years.
At least 835 police responses to the high school have been documented since 2017, in addition to “numerous responses” related to “area checks, property checks, and burglary alarms,” according to the suit, which further alleges “there have been dozens of responses related to criminal activity involving fights, assaults, sexual assaults, and weapons possession types of incidents.”
The lawsuit also noted that the school board “in recognition of the prevalence of third-party criminal activity creating dangerous conditions” required those attending its meetings to go through a metal detector to be screened for weapons. A link to a Press of Atlantic City article to back the claim explains that increased police presence and metal detectors were added after a rowdy public comment portion of a previous meeting.
“Despite prior notice of the dangerous conditions and despite immediate availability of the metal detection devices owned and used by the Board to protect itself, neither the Board nor NJSIAA required the devices to be utilized for athletic events that they hosted on the public property,” the suit alleges.
The Pleasantville Board of Education did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for the NJSIAA says the organization does not comment on pending litigation.
Tennant was attending a high school playoff football game Nov. 15, 2019 between Pleasantville and Camden high schools. The game had drawn hundreds of people. About halfway through the third quarter, shots were fired. Micah was shot in the neck and critically wounded, one of three people caught in the crossfire. He died of his injuries five days later and before the two teams finished their game at the Linc in Philadelphia.
The weekend after Micah’s death, about 150 adults and children marched from New Hope Commons Park to the stadium at Pleasantville High School to remember him and to call for an end to gun violence.
Six men were charged in connection with the shooting. Tyrell Dorn pleaded guilty to weapons charges last July. He was sentenced to seven years behind bars, with parole eligibility after five.
Crump was joined by Micah’s parents, Samuel Dunmore and Angela Tennant, and a New Jersey-based legal team that includes Wildwood lawyer Oliver T. Barry. Barry said they intend to prove the stadium was in “a dangerous condition” based on the criminal activity and the physical condition of the property.
“The laws in our state provide a remedy when public property is in a dangerous condition that poses a palpably unreasonable risk to members of the state, such as poor Dew,” he said.
Barry said they are seeking “whatever damages a jury deems appropriate.” Crump added that “there is no amount of money” that could replace “Dew.”
“If you had all the money in the world, they would take Dew back,” he said. “This lawsuit is about safety, about his legacy, and about preventing any other children from our community from being killed unjustly.”
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