Family of innocent homeowner shot by police has limited right to sue
The family of Fred Bletz sued two Ionia County Deputies after they fatally shot Bletz while attempting to arrest his son for failing to show at a court hearing. The officers drove to the Bletz home at 11:40 at night, without sirens, and turned their headlights off as they approached the home. They then approached the back door and demanded entry. Fred Bletz was aspleep, however, his son heard the officers and responded. The son requested the right to put shoes on before going to jail, and the officers either agreed, or agreed on condition that they accompany him into the house.In any event, when the three entered the house, they encountered Fred at an inner door with a gun, demanding to know who they were. It is undisputed that Fred was hard of hearing and had vision trouble and was without his eyeglasses or hearing aid.
The three surviving parties disagree about what happened next--with the two deputies also failing to agree with each other. In any event, when Bletz failed to drop his gun "immediately" one of the deputies shot him four times causing his death. His wife was then arrested and held for three hours.
The family sued under 49 USC 1983, alleging use of excessive force in the arrest of the son, resulting in the death of Fred Bletz and the illegal detention of his wife. Ultimately the Sixth Circuit dismissed most of the family's claims, but did uphold the right to a jury trial against the Deputy who fired his weapon.