The daughter of a 44-year-old man killed by a Suffolk County police officer in Manorville last year has filed a federal wrongful death suit against the county, its police department and the officer accused of firing the fatal shots.
Carmela Bonsignore, the executor of the estate of Jesse Bonsignore, is seeking $85 million in damages, alleging false arrest, excessive force, fabrication of evidence and intentional infliction of emotional distress among 15 total claims, according to the civil complaint filed in federal court Wednesday.
Police had said in a press release issued the day after the shooting that a Seventh Precinct officer responded to the scene at about 10:45 p.m. on May 20, 2021 following a report of “a suspicious person lying on the backseat of a vehicle in the vicinity of 67 Bauer Avenue.”
“Upon arrival, the officer located the vehicle and the male subject. The officer engaged him, and a struggle ensued. The officer fired his gun, striking the man,” police wrote in the release, adding that “a knife was recovered from [the victim],” whom they later identified as Mr. Bonsignore.
The Suffolk County Police Department said at the time of the incident that its homicide unit was conducting an investigation along with the New York State Attorney General’s special investigations office.
In the lawsuit filed in First District Court in Central Islip Wednesday, Ms. Bonsignore said as a result of the ongoing investigation she has been denied access to a video recording of the incident, an autopsy report and the disciplinary history of Officer James Skidmore, who the complaint alleges shot Mr. Bonsignore in the neck and torso that evening.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Ms. Bonsignore by attorney Lori Marano of Garden City, states that Mr. Bonsignore worked as an Uber driver and was resting while parked lawfully in the street not far from his childhood home, where his mother still lives. The complaint states Mr. Bonsignore “struggled with mental health issues,” but was a “deeply religious” and moral man who was “opposed to violence.” The complaint does not say specifically that Mr. Bonsignore was working the night of the incident and police later told the media they believed he was living out of the car.
The complaint alleges Officer Skidmore, 53, confronted an “unarmed” Mr. Bonsignore in his car and “seized and confined him” before ultimately “assaulting” and fatally shooting him. The complaint also alleges police “failed to provide life-saving interventions.”
“[Mr. Bonsignore] was not engaging in unlawful behavior and was not a threat to any person,” the complaint reads.
In an October 2021 report, New York State Attorney General Letitia James listed the shooting of Mr. Bonsignore as one of 25 open investigations into police-involved shootings between April and August of last year. That report also states Mr. Bonsignore was armed with a knife.
Speaking with reporters following the shooting, several residents of the community, where property records show Officer Skidmore owned a home until selling it to his former wife in 2017, said Mr. Bonsignore approached a woman saying “something like ‘You want a ride?'” He “kind of looked spacey,” one man told CBS News.
The residents who called police on the night of the shooting allegedly turned over to police security camera footage of the incident, according to the complaint.
Ms. Bonsignore and the estate are seeking $5 million in damages for each of the 15 claims in the complaint, plus $10 million in punitive damages. Her attorney, Ms. Marano, did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Officer Skidmore was recognized by former police commissioner Timothy Sini in February 2016 as a Seventh Precinct “Cop of the Month” for his role in apprehending a suspect in a string of residential burglaries in the Shirley area.
While the Suffolk County Police Department has not made its disciplinary records public, court records show Officer Skidmore is a defendant in a civil suit filed by a man who claims he was driving his police car recklessly — and without using his police lights — in a 2011 crash that left the other driver permanently injured. That case, which is expected to head to trial this year, was allowed to continue after a Suffolk County judge ruled the police officer’s testimony that he was heading to assist an officer attempting to apprehend a suspect in another matter was inconsistent with testimony from the plaintiff who stated he overheard Officer Skidmore say he was headed back to the police station at the time of the crash.
Records show Officer Skidmore has been employed by the Suffolk County Police Department since June 2001. He has worked in the Seventh Precinct since 2003.