Federal lawsuit filed by family of man executed at Saginaw halfway house

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (10/27/2017) - The family of Demarlon Thomas has filed a federal lawsuit claiming negligence after he was shot to death inside a Saginaw halfway house in January.

Surveillance footage shows two suspects gaining entry to the Bannum Place halfway house in Saginaw on the night Demarlon Thomas was killed inside.

President Barack Obama commuted Thomas' prison sentence, allowing Thomas to be moved from prison to the Bannum Place halfway house. On the evening of Jan. 23, two masked gunmen entered the facility, searched for Thomas and executed him.

The Michigan State Police are still hunting for the killers.

The lawsuit claims Thomas told the halfway house management he feared for his safety inside the building and that the killers may have had some communication help.

Surveillance cameras captured footage of the suspects opening a door to the facility. Once inside, one of the suspects watched over staff and other residents while the other found and shot Demarlon Thomas several times.

The federal lawsuit claims Bannum Place, which has a contract with the federal government to provide residential re-entry services, was negligent in not protecting Thomas in the building. Police confirm the killers had easy access to get inside.

"The door was either left ajar or left unlocked," said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser.

Another claim in the lawsuit is that Thomas himself expressed concern for his own safety to the halfway house management sometime before the murder. The attorney for the Thomas family says he believes someone inside the building was on a cell phone, directing the killers to Thomas.

Investigators cannot confirm that claim at this point.

"We know they checked another room, they left the room guarded and continued to search for this person," Kaiser said. "They found him in a backroom, where he was fatally shot."

The lawsuit is seeing unspecified financial damages. Bannum officials did not return messages seeking comment about the lawsuit.

Even though the men had masks on, investigators hope someone recognizes other characteristics about the suspects.

"Their gait, their strides, how they carry themselves, how they walk," Kaiser said. "They know exactly who it is without seeing their face."

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