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7th Circuit lets Fort Wayne police shooting case proceed

May 15, 2019

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to end an excessive force lawsuit against a Fort Wayne police officer, finding a review of the video of the shooting and arrest does not “utterly discredit” the plaintiff’s contentions that he was shot while trying to comply or did not have to respond to the officer’s commands.

Anthony Gant claimed constitutional violations and sought damages under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 against Fort Wayne officers Daniel Hartman, Bradley Griffin and Jason Palm after he was shot during a robbery of a Dollar General store. Police arrived while the robbery was in progress and stationed themselves around the outside of the store.

When Gant was exiting through the front entrance, Hartman filed, striking him in the abdomen. The officer explained he believed Gant was holding a gun and preparing to shoot. However, Gant was not holding a gun or any object in his hand and, he asserted, he was either trying to follow officers’ instructions or was not given the opportunity to respond to orders.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted summary judgment for Griffin and Palm but not for Hartman. In particular, the court found there were genuine issues of material fact and a jury would need to decide whether it was reasonable for an officer in Hartman’s position at the time of the incident to believe Gant had a gun.

Hartman appealed, but the 7th Circuit dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction in Anthony Gant v. Daniel Hartman, 18-1287.

The unanimous appellate panel accused Hartman of attempting a “back-door effort to contest the facts” and trying to get the 7th Circuit to “second-guess the district court’s conclusion that material facts are disputed.”

“Officer Hartman has consistently relabeled certain facts as ‘undisputed,’ and he asks this court to challenge the district court’s determination that material facts are genuinely disputed,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for the court. “… Office Hartman cannot pursue an interlocutory appeal by arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support the district court’s conclusion or by relabeling the disputed as ‘undisputed.’”

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