Cops Won’t Face Federal Case on Bipolar Slaying

     WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – Excessive-force claims against a police officer who fatally shot a bipolar drug addict can play out in Florida state court, a federal judge ruled.
     Adam Phillips had been staying with his mother, Patty Phillips, in 2008 while waiting for a bed to open up at the Drug Abuse Foundation. On Dec. 1, Patty called the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to report that Adam, who was also bipolar, had stolen her purse and fled in her car.
     “While my back was turned for just an instant, my son, Adam Phillips, grabbed my purse with cell phone and keys attached and exited my condo,” Patti stated in the police report.
     “My son has no license to drive and because of his history, has never been given nor would be given permission to drive my vehicle,” she added. “I carefully guard my purse and keys but slipped up this time.”
     Several officers pursued the vehicle and the car eventually came to a stop in an area “where there were lots of police vehicles,” according to the ruling.
     The officers admitted in deposition testimony that Adam had not been speeding or driving recklessly, and that he had not hit anyone or tried to commit a violent felony.
     They said they instructed Adam to exit the vehicle, but that he instead he kept trying to restart the car.
     In addition to not knowing that their target had stolen the car from his mother, the police also did not know how many people were in the car or whether they had weapons.
     The officers used a safe distance tool known as a sage to fire a hard rubber baton at the stolen car, but the windows would not shatter because of the thick tint of the glass.
     Cpl. Richard Logsdon said he looked through a hole that the sage has put in the window and believed that the driver was reaching for something in his pocket.
     He plunged his gun into the car and fired five times. Adam died at the scene, and officers found no weapon in the car nor anything in his pockets.
     “I felt like I needed to act before before acted upon,” Logsdon said in a statement.
     He also claimed that, on his way to the scene, he had heard that the car would not stop and that the driver had tried to hit two deputies.
     Logsdon and other deputies attended in-service training after the incident, where the officers talked about how the scene need not have been so rushed.
     Adam’s mother filed a federal complaint against Logsdon, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and Lt. Edward Worthington. The officers moved for summary judgment, which U.S. District Judge Kenneth Mara granted Thursday, finding that the use of deadly force was necessary in the face of imminent danger.
     Though Mara concluded the federal claims with prejudice, he left room for Patty Phillips to refile her state-law claims.
     The 39-page ruling notes testimony from a sergeant who was asked if it was necessary to rush in and approach the car.
     “The amount of time and the amount of commands that were given were extremely appropriate,” that sergeant had said. “And there was no reason to think that it was anything other than a stolen car with somebody who is not willing to surrender. And it wouldn’t be any different than any of the other hundreds of arrests that we made in dealing with a stolen motor vehicle.”
     The ruling notes that it is the policy of Palm Beach police to use excessive force when there is reasonable belief that such force is necessary.
     “The court also finds that Cpl. Logsdon gave a warning to the driver,” Mara wrote. “Although he did not say that he would use deadly force if the driver did not show his hands, Cpl. Logsdon screamed for the driver to show him his hands. Other cases have found this to be a sufficient warning.”
     “In a perfect world, Adam Phillips would not have died on December 1, 2008, but the law does not require perfection – it requires objective reasonableness,” Mara added. “Cpl. Logsdon did not have the weeks that this Court has spent reviewing the facts and analyzing the case law. He did not have days. He did not have hours. He did not have minutes. At the point in time when he saw Adam Phillips trying to get something out of his pocket, he had seconds to decide what to do. He did not simply shoot. He screamed at Mr. Phillips to show his hands. We will never know why Mr. Phillips did not do so then, or why he did not exit the vehicle when he was directed to do so earlier during the encounter. Whatever the reason was, as the Court sits here today with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it is unreasonable to suggest that Cpl. Logsdon should have assumed that the reason was innocuous.”

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