LEONARDTOWN, Md. – One year after a Maryland State Trooper shot and killed the 16-year-old Peyton Ham, his mother has filed a civil complaint in federal court against Joseph Charles Azzari seeking over $10 million for the wrongful killing of her son.
On April 13, 2021, Azzari was on duty when he received a county-wide dispatch reporting a suspicious man with a gun in a neighborhood near the Maryland State Police Leonardtown Barracks.
Azzari immediately responded to the dispatched location and did not activate his lights or sirens.
When Azzari arrived on the scene, he proceeded to approach the wrong property which was next door to the correct address. His lights and sirens remained off as he pulled into the driveway. Azzari also did not activate the in-car camera equipped in his vehicle, despite the nature of the incident.
Upon exiting the vehicle, Azzari spotted Peyton who was walking on the neighboring property. Azzari believed that Peyton was holding a handgun in his right hand, as he reportedly proceeded to point it towards him.
It was later determined that Peyton was not holding an actual handgun, but rather holding a toy gun.
Azzari then opened fire in the direction of Peyton. The complaint alleges that approximately 11 rounds were discharged, with one or more striking Ham in the right arm. Peyton was injured yet still alive and conscious.
Azzari reportedly later acknowledged that after the first couple of rounds fired, Peyton was no longer a threat. Ham was on his knees when Azzari reportedly fired approximately four more rounds into Ham, causing him to collapse onto the ground. Peyton eventually succumbed to his injuries.
The plaintiff, Kristee Boyle, the mother of Peyton, claims that Azzari recklessly opened fire in a neighborhood with disregard for the safety of others around him. One of the shots reportedly broke a window and entered the living area of a nearby home. Peyton’s step-grandmother and step-aunt were also reportedly within feet of the incident and were yelling at Azzari to stop.
The plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against Azzari with a total of five charges: excessive force, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, survival action, and damages.
Boyle is suing for $5 million in punitive damages and an additional $5 million for the death of her son.
After the investigation by St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney Richard Fritz and the Maryland State Police, Azzari was found to have done nothing wrong.
Azzari reportedly saw Ham with a knife in his back pocket, saying he refused to drop it. After the first rounds were fired, Ham reportedly stood back up with the knife in hand, which caused Azzari to fire a second round. Azzari reportedly stated in a later report that he wasn’t equipped with any non-lethal options.
Azzari was later relocated from the Leonardtown Barracks by the Maryland State Police.
The lawsuit was filed on April 12, 2022, marking exactly one year after Peyton’s death.
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