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July 26, 2023

Woman shot in the head during eviction sues Philly's landlord-tenant officer, others

The incident is one of three recent shootings by private contractors hired to evict people from their homes

Housing Shooting
Girard Court Apartments in Philadelphia GOOGLE STREET VIEW/GOOGLE

A Google Street View image of Girard Court Apartments, the site of the March 29 shooting during an eviction proceeding against Angel Davis.

A woman who was shot in the head during an eviction earlier this year is taking the matter to court.

Angel Davis, a former resident of Girard Court Apartments who suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was shot by a security contractor hired by the city's court-appointed landlord-tenant officer, filed a lawsuit seeking damages on Tuesday. The lawsuit names landlord-tenant officer Marisa Shuter, the owners and managers of the property and Lamont Daniels, the man who shot her, as defendants and accuses them of "negligent and reckless conduct" that has caused her "substantial physical and emotional pain."

The litigation stems from an incident on March 29 in which Daniels was sent by the Landlord-Tenant Office to evict Davis from her apartment on behalf of Girard Court property owner Odin Properties due to unpaid rent. In the altercation that followed, the exact details of which are in dispute, Daniels shot Davis in the head, causing permanent brain damage and what the lawsuit describes as "severe emotional distress."

The lawsuit says that Shuter, whose for-profit security firm is contracted by courts to enforce evictions, is "woefully unqualified to operate an armed security company" and that she neither trains the security officers she hires nor has any written rules or procedures for how to execute an eviction.

It’s not just the controversial Landlord-Tenant Office and personnel like Daniels who are at fault, says the lawsuit. It also places blame on Girard Court Apartments for not looking into Shuter’s background, qualifications or whether she had any policies or procedures in place for carrying out evictions safely.

The lawsuit also faults property manager Odin Properties for securing Shuter's services and allowing Daniels to access Davis's apartment without a representative from the property management office, even after it was determined that he would not be able to execute the lockout "in a reasonably safe manner."

The incident was the first of three shootings carried out by armed contractors hired by Shuter to enforce eviction lockouts this year. In June, a deputy landlord-tenant officer shot at a tenant's dog during an eviction, followed by another incident earlier this month in which a 33-year-old woman was shot in the leg under similar circumstances.

In response to the troubling trend, the city recently halted evictions that rely on landlord-tenant officers until proper training can be put in place for how to safely conduct lockouts. In the meantime, courts can still turn to the Sheriff's Department to enforce eviction lockouts.

Philadelphia City Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Jamie Gauthier applauded the eviction moratorium and called for reforms to the Landlord-Tenant Office, including the adoption of formal procedural guidelines for carrying out evictions and a policy for properly notifying tenants of an impending lockout. In the case of Davis’s eviction, she claims she did not realize that she was due to be evicted when Daniels was sent to her apartment on March 29.

"We cannot think of any other aspect of our justice system that operates as recklessly, opaquely and dangerously as the landlord-tenant officer and her private security contractors, " the Councilmembers said in a joint statement calling for the reforms. "Our neighbors facing eviction should not have to worry about being shot by an untrained private security contractor while they are enduring one of the most traumatic moments of their life."

The alarming trend has captured the attention of state lawmakers as well. Shortly after Davis was shot in March, Pennsylvania State Senators Nikil Saval and Sharif Street introduced legislation that would abolish the use of private contractors in performing eviction lockouts. That bill has been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"This... is what happens when we allow a housing crisis to decimate tenants’ housing security and mix such a dire situation with armed, privately-run court officers who have no training or oversight," said OnePA co-executive director Steve Paul at the time of the first shooting.