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Family can sue police officer who shot deranged man after struggle

City of Burton police officer Jeremy Driggett was called to an intersection where Harvey Steward, now deceased, was running between cars and acting "crazy."  Driggett approached Driggett to investigate, but when he touched Steward's shoulder, Steward turned and shoved Driggett.  Driggett then took Steward down, intending to arrest him for striking an officer. It was later shown that Steward was probably struggling with a cocaine overdose.

As the two men wrestled on the ground, with Driggett dominating, a bystander saw that Driggett could not completely control Steward and placed a foot on Steward's arm. The several witnesses' testimony was not entirely consistent, but it confirmed that Steward may have attempted to grab Driggett's gun, unsuccessfully, and that after several minutes Driggett stood erect or partially erect, pulled his gun and shot Steward in the chest.  Driggett later said that he was tired of fighting with Steward.

Steward bled to death at the scene and his family sued Driggett for wrongful death.  The Court held that the facts didn't prove "gross negligence" by Driggett that constituted "the" cause of death, which is what it takes to avoid govermental immunity.  It also held, however, that a jury could find Driggett guilty of an intentional assault and battery, since he was not in imminent danger when he used deadly force.  As a result of this overly tcchnical evaluation, there might be legal responsibility without insurance coverage for a situation that appears to have been simply bad police work, perhaps caused by inadequate training.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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