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Court Backs Officer in Unarmed Teen Shooting

(CN) - A Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot a black teenager after the youth dropped his weapon did not act unreasonably, the Sixth Circuit ruled.

Cincinnati police officer Oscar Cyranek fatally shot 16-year-old Davon Mullins during a stop and frisk in April 2011.

Cyranek was working as security for the Black Family Reunion celebration, a weekend event celebrating black family values, when he was informed that some young black men were throwing guns over the fence to people inside the event.

Upon investigation, the officer encountered Mullins, who was standing in such a way that Cyranek suspected he had a weapon.

Cyranek ordered Mullins to stop and Mullins complied, but the two began tussling when Cyranek grabbed Mullins' wrists, and pushed him to the ground.

At some point, Cyranek saw that Mullins had a gun in his right hand with the finger on the trigger.

According to a witness, Cyranek told Mullins to drop the gun, and Mullins complied by throwing the gun over Cyranek's shoulder.

The officer responded by rising from his crouched position where he held Mullins to the ground, and firing at the teen twice.

While Cyranek claimed that Mullins threw the weapon after he fired, surveillance video shows that Cyranek fired approximately three seconds after the teen threw his gun.

The officer then immediately moved the gun and placed it by Mullins' body, altering the scene of the shooting.

Mullins' mother sued Cyranek, alleging that the officer used excessive force by shooting her son.

But a federal judge found the officer entitled to immunity, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed Monday.

"The shooting of Davon Mullins was an unfortunate tragedy," U.S. Circuit Judge Julia Smith Gibbons said, writing for the three-judge panel. "Yet, as we view the undisputed facts of this case in light of binding precedent, we are compelled to conclude that Cyranek's split-second decision to use deadly force was not objectively unreasonable,"

The court said there is no doubt that Mullins posed a threat to Cyranek and the general public while he held the gun.

"While Cyranek's decision to shoot Mullins after he threw his weapon may appear unreasonable in the 'sanitized world of our imagination,' Cyranek was faced with a rapidly escalating situation, and his decision to use deadly force in the face of a severe threat to himself and the public was reasonable," Gibbons said.

The fact that Mullins was actually unarmed when he was shot is irrelevant to the court's evaluation of whether Cyranek is entitled to immunity, the panel said.

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