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7th Circuit affirms ruling for officers on excessive force claims

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found no reason to disturb a judgment in favor of several officers involved in a standoff and shooting death of a Fort Wayne man in 2005. Rudy Escobedo’s estate challenged the jury verdict and summary judgment for the defendants on excessive force claims.

In the early morning of July 19, 2005, Rudy Escobedo became suicidal and ingested cocaine. After calling his sisters, he called 911 to report he was suicidal. He barricaded himself in his bedroom in his 7th floor apartment in Fort Wayne. Officers tried to negotiate Escobedo out of his apartment to no avail. Eventually, a tactical team, knowing Escobedo was armed, threw several cans of tear gas into his apartment and entered his apartment. The officers threw two flash-bang devices in the apartment, with one thrown into his bedroom. The police believed Escobedo was going to shoot based on his actions in the bedroom, and two officers opened fire, killing him.

Escobedo’s estate sued the city of Fort Wayne and several of the officers involved. After a variety of motions were filed and a partial summary judgment was granted and appealed, the case went to trial on the excessive force claims, and the jury found in favor of the defendants. The District Court also granted judgment as a matter of law in favor of the defendants after the jury entered its verdict.  

Escobedo’s estate appealed on several grounds, including that the 7th Circuit should reverse the grant of judgment as a matter of law to the defendant commanders on qualified immunity grounds because the court improperly weighed evidence and concluded that Escobedo posed a threat to the public. The estate cited the 7th Circuit’s opinion involving this case from 2010 that upheld denial of qualified immunity to the defendants on their motion for summary judgment.

“However, facts emerged at trial that caused the district court to conclude that ‘the police had a much greater concern that Escobedo was an imminent threat to others,’ thus changing its conclusion on the qualified immunity question,” Judge Daniel Manion wrote. “When we affirmed the district court’s summary judgment ruling, the facts concerning the degree of danger Escobedo presented were not nearly as developed as they were after trial.”

In its 45-page opinion released Thursday, Estate of Rudy Escobedo (deceased) (Raquel Hanic, Personal Representative of Estate) v. Officer Brian Martin, et al., 11-2426, the 7th Circuit found the District Court did not improperly admit evidence unknown to the officers at the time they used force against Escobedo; that the court committed harmless error when it prohibited the estate from introducing evidence at trial of Escobedo’s death for purposes of calculating damages; there was no error in granting judgment as a matter of law on qualified immunity grounds to the defendant commanders nor to officer Scott Straub; and that the District Court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of officers Brian Martin and Jason Brown on the estate’s excessive force claim for shooting Escobedo.

 

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  • Poppycock!
    Where was the evidence o0f alcohol other than the testimony of the cops who backed each others story, imagine that! It is time to rein in thug cops that tell the difference between a intoxicated person and a medical issue and it is time for the courts to stop protecting these thugs that think martial law has been declared in America and that a badge is a license to break the law!

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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  4. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  5. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

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