Family Can’t Sue Police |Over Fatal Shooting

     (CN) – The family of a paranoid schizophrenic who was fatally shot by police after he pointed a knife with an 8-inch blade at them, cannot sue the officers under state law, a federal judge ruled.
     The ruling announced last week in Camden, N.J., describes the circumstances leading up to the shooting in tragic detail.
     On Jan. 4, 2011, Albert Lane III, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, walked into the kitchen of the home he shared with his mother, Cheri, and grabbed a large knife. His mother told him to put the knife down and he initially complied, before he once again grabbed the knife and took it with him upstairs to his bedroom.
     Ms. Lane and her other son, Derrick Lane, tried to get Albert – who was 5-foot-9 and 260 pounds – to again relinquish the knife, but he was “nonresponsive,” so Cheri Lane called 911.
     As recounted by U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler, Camden Police Sgt. Zsakheim James on the scene arrived with Sgt. Paul Price at 5:41 p.m., joining several other officers who were already there.
     Sgt. James later said he asked Albert if he wanted help, and that the young man nodded affirmatively. The police then took Lane’s family downstairs, and his family told officers he had a knife, warning that they should “grab a good grip on his hand because he can get out of it.”
     The officers, then went back upstairs and tried to negotiate with Albert, but he was “non-responsive.”
     James then had Cheri Lane and Derrick go outside, and Officer George Reese arrived with a ballistics shield and a “long gun” — a high-powered M-4 assault rifle or machine gun.
     Judge Kugler said Price proceeded up the stairs, and into the “narrow, confined hallway” outside Lane’s bedroom.
     According to the police, Albert stood and walked deeper into his bedroom, causing the officers to momentarily lose sight of him. When he reappeared, moving slowly toward the doorway, the officers said he was “going lower” with the knife.
     Price testified Albert Lane looked at the knife and then at the officers, and James told him to “stop it.”
     He then “just full out lunged with the knife,” landing “basically out of the doorway,” Price said.
     Price fired his gun and heard Reese discharge the long gun “almost simultaneously.”
     Price and Reese shot at Albert 12 times, hitting him 10 times, including once in the head.
     Albert “fell to the ground” and James handcuffed him and called for paramedics.
     Cheri Lane testified that she and Derrick heard the shots minutes after they went outside.
     They then tried to get back in, and Lane said she “just went forward” and “blacked out.”
     Police, on the other hand, claimed that Cheri and Derrick Lane confronted police, got in an altercation with them, and then resisted arrest resulting from the incident.
     Albert Lane was pronounced dead moments later.
     Cheri Lane, individually and on behalf of Albert’s estate, and Derrick Lane sued the city, the seven responding officers, and multiple unnamed defendants, alleging false arrest and imprisonment, excessive force, and constitutional violations under federal and state law.
     But Judge Kugler awarded the defendants partial summary judgment on September 23, finding the four officers who aided the sergeants and Sgt. Reese immune from litigation.
     “Ms. Lane’s reaction to hearing gunshots inside her home is understandable,” Kugler wrote. “However, given that Ms. Lane was trying to break down the door and break in the window of an active law enforcement scene, and that she fought with the officers and actively resisted arrest, this court finds that the officers’ actions were objectively reasonable.”
     The same applies to the officers’ treatment of Derrick, the unpublished ruling states.
     “Albert Lane III’s death was a tragedy,” Kugler wrote. “This court has the deepest sympathy for Ms. Lane, who lost a son, and Derrick Lane, who lost a brother. However, Sgt. Price and Officer Reese acted reasonably in defending themselves and Sergeant James. They resorted to deadly force only when they were assaulted with deadly force.”
     The court also dismissed the state law claims, finding that no federal claims remain.
     The parties did not return phone calls from Courthouse News seeking comment.

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