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Two police abuse cases will go to the jury

This week the Sixth Circuit rejected appeals by two different police groups seeking immunity and the dismissal of abuse claims.  In both cases, the Court noted that the allegedly abusive officers were demanding that the court interpret disputed facts against the claimants, in order to warrant dismissal.  Both panels of the Court pointed out that where facts are in dispute, summary disposition is not available unless the alleged victim cannot prove a claim even under the most favorable view of the facts.

In Thompson v. Grida, et al., the Court pointed out that under the Plaintiff's evidence, the plaintiff-father had not disturbed the peace in attempting to locate his daughter at a school bus dispute when he was struck and arrested by Officer Shuburt. Given that the criminal case against Thompson resulted in an acquittal, there was no basis to resolve the substantial disparities in the parties' accounts of the incident in the Officers' favor.

In Sabo v. City of Mentor, the family of Richard Sabo sued the City and officer Scott Tkach after Tkach fatally shot Sabo.  Sabo's wife had observed that Sabo was acting strangely and feared that he had suffered a stroke.  When she called EMTs, however, Sabo would not allow them to treat him and threatened to get his shotgun and shoot them if they did not leave.  They left, and called police.  Police surrounded the house and asked his wife to instruct him to come out of the house, unarmed.  Sabo demonstrated some confusion but then exited the home carrying his shotgun.  He took seven or eight steps toward police when Tkach shot him in the back causing fatal injuries. The Court noted that Sabo was never instructed to stop or drop his weapon prior to the fatal shooting and that the parties disputed whether Sabo ever aimed his shotgun at the officers.  On this basis, a claim of excessive force was potentially viable and for a jury to decide.

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