Family of man killed by Atlanta police at Buckhead restaurant file lawsuit

The parents of a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by Atlanta police at a Buckhead restaurant are suing the city, restaurant, and others.

The Atlanta NAACP says that the family of Nygil Cullins filed a federal lawsuit over his death in the  United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Friday.

"Mental health does not have to be a death sentence. I think we are living the nightmare that every family, every parent, every loved one out there that has family members that are struggling with mental health. We are representing what they don't want to see. So, if it can happen to us, it can happen to them," said Maya Cullins, his mother.

According to Atlanta police, on May 18, 2022, officers were called to the Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse on the 3100 block of Piedmont Road after a 911 caller reported an unruly man armed with a gun.

"That day will never go away. 5/18 will never go away. It's hard to leave the house on 5/18 because my son left his home and he didn't come back," said Quinten Cullins, his father. 

At the restaurant, officers found Cullins at the bar drinking a bottle of liquor.

"And all the sudden, it started to escalate, and we started hearing noise and a lot of commotion," a witness told FOX 5.

Police say Cullins was asked to leave, but wouldn't. The confrontation eventually turned into a scuffle between Cullins, the officer and a security guard.

"He's putting his hands up. He's going to the ground. And then he's tasted," said Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia NAACP.

At one point, police say the security guard tackled Cullins, who allegedly reached for his gun and fired a shot, hitting him once. That's when police say the officer opened fire - hitting and killing Cullins.

"The community needs to see the video. They need to see ten shots being fired into Nygil Cullins, five shots, a pause, standing over him and walking around and then five more shots. Justify why he was treated in such a manner," said Griggs. 

Family calls for more training for APD officers

In an interview less than a week after Cullins was killed, his mother told FOX 5 he was a former employee at the restaurant and was in mental health distress.

"This is an interview I would never wish on my worst enemy, but I want y'all to know something has to change," Mya Cullins said. "I don't want to see another mother out there struggling - and their worst fear is being killed by a cop."

Nygil Cullins (Courtesy of the family)

MORE: Parents of man killed by Atlanta police at Buckhead restaurant say they tried to get him help

The couple says they called Atlanta police just hours before 22-year-old Nygil Cullins was killed.

According to Mya Cullins, her son was not doing well on that day, so she says she called 911 to get him taken to a mental health facility.

"I did everything I was supposed to do, and help did not arrive. His mental health and his mental illness shouldn't be a death sentence," Mya Cullins explained.

The family and the NAACP have protested APD headquarters to demand the release of the body camera footage of Cullins' death and the officer's arrest. The NAACP says police claim they will not release the video until their investigation is done.

 "He was in mental health distress and he was shot, and they stood over and shot some more, so we need full transparency," Gerald Griggs, president of the Atlanta NAACP, said in a statement.

Lawsuit over Nygil Cullins' death

In their complaint, Quentin and Mya Cullins name the City of Atlanta, Fogo de Chão, Valor Protection Security Agency LLC, and the two Atlanta police officers as defendants.

Cullins' parents claim that he "did not present any threat" and that the officers had "no reasonable basis to believe or assume that Cullins was violent or dangerous."

"The ball is in the City of Atlanta's court... Release the tape! Be clear with the citizens of Atlanta about what happened to Nygil Cullins and make sure it never happens again," said Griggs.

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Police say an officer-involved shooting happened inside a popular Buckhead restaurant on May 18, 2022. (FOX 5)

"We can't get closure when they're not being transparent," said Maya Cullins. 

They disputed the Atlanta Police Department's narrative, saying that the security guard caused Cullins' gun to discharge when he tackled him and that the officers continued to fire at their son while he was "clearly helpless, immobilized, and unconscious."

The family is asking for compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees in the lawsuit.