A $2 million wrongful death suit has been filed by the estate of Hector Emanuel Escoto-Munguia, the man shot and killed by a retired Roanoke police officer on the Blue Ridge Parkway last year.
The estate’s complaint, filed in Roanoke, alleges that Keith Sidwell acted negligently when he encountered Escoto-Munguia on the parkway on April 10, 2018, a meeting that ultimately proved fatal.
The complaint claims that Sidwell “chose not to handle his firearm with reasonable care and due regard for others,” and it further accuses him of not operating his motor vehicle with care or proper control, or in a safe manner. On Friday, the plaintiff’s attorney declined to elaborate on those points.
Sidwell’s legal response formally denies the allegations, and he has requested that the case be transferred to Roanoke County, the locality where the shooting occurred and where Sidwell lives. He has also asked that the complaint be dismissed.
No court dates have been scheduled.
Prosecutors have said that sometime after 10 a.m. the day of the shooting, Sidwell, 57, and Escoto-Munguia, 20, were stopped in their cars on the parkway near mile marker 116.5, facing in opposite directions with their drivers’ side windows rolled down.
Sidwell told investigators Escoto-Munguia had what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun pointed at him, so Sidwell drew his own weapon, a Glock 9mm, and ordered Escoto-Munguia to drop it. Sidwell told police Escoto-Munguia did not comply.
“Investigators determined that Mr. Sidwell discharged his firearm three times,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release last July, three months after the shooting.
Escoto-Munguia died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Investigators found a BB pistol, realistically styled to resemble a Beretta 9mm, just outside and behind Escoto-Munguia’s vehicle.
“There is insufficient evidence to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Sidwell unlawfully killed Mr. Escoto-Munguia and that he did not act in self-defense,” the U.S. attorney’s release said.
That office has since declined to comment on how the initial encounter between the two men came about, or to answer questions regarding specific details of the shooting.
An acquaintance of Escoto-Munguia’s, Amber Watson, told The Roanoke Times last year that she spoke with him the morning of the shooting. She said he told her he was going for a drive on the parkway and planned to wash his car.
Prosecutors have also said that just prior to the shooting, at least three witnesses encountered Escoto-Munguia in his vehicle. The witnesses said he “brandished what appeared to be a black handgun at them,” according to the U.S. attorney.
Sidwell retired from the Roanoke Police Department as a lieutenant in 2006. From there, he became a police chief in Henderson, North Carolina, where he served until his retirement in 2013, after which he moved to Roanoke County.