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7th Circuit: Gunman’s reach for weapon nullifies excessive force claim

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A federal court in South Bend rightfully rejected a civil rights claim brought by a man shot by state troopers trying to serve a warrant who found themselves in a six-hour armed standoff, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Gary W. Helman filed a federal suit claiming his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights were violated and that Indiana State Police used excessive force when they shot him multiple times at his home in Cromwell. Helman displayed a weapon after authorities arrived, and the standoff ensued.

Helman ventured outside his house after a few hours, and police deployed a flash bang device. According to the District Court opinion, at that point Helman pulled his gun and police responded by shooting him. Helman later pleaded guilty to a Class D felony charge of resisting law enforcement.

In Gary W. Helman v. Bruce Duhaime, 12-3428, Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner wrote that District Judge William C. Lee properly granted summary judgment in favor of the law-enforcement defendants on the basis that Helman’s guilty plea to the resisting charge constituted admission that he reached for his weapon before police fired.

“Helman is left, then, with an argument under § 1983 that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights in shooting him when he was reaching for his firearm,” Rovner wrote. “That claim, however, cannot survive summary judgment because such a response is objectively reasonable.”
 

 

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