Authorities have said that Patrolman William Covert's pistol discharged accidentally. The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office and the state Attorney General's Office have been jointly investigating the incident, according to county Prosecutor Stephen G. Raymond.
The lawsuit was filed Sept. 16 on behalf of Rocco Yannarell's daughter, Lisa Yannarell, by the victim's estranged wife, Deborah Yanarell of the Folsom section of Ridley Township. In the suit, the two contend that Cinnaminson police violated Rocco Yannarell's civil rights.
The suit contends that the man "was the victim of summary execution at the hands of Cinnaminson Township police officers."
"While being apprehended, Rocco Yannarell was willfully, maliciously, intentionally and without legal justification struck with the barrel of an unnamed Cinnaminson police officer's gun and subsequently shot once in the head by an unnamed Cinnaminson Township police officer causing his death," according to the lawsuit.
"Rocco Yannarell was unarmed and helpless, and in no way posed a threat to the Cinnaminson Township police officer's safety or the safety of any other person."
The suit also contends that "gross negligence" and improper training for officers on the part of the township and the police chief created an atmosphere of "lawlessness" in which such a shooting could occur. The shooting also violated local regulations and state police guidelines on the use of deadly force, according to the suit.