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Georgia Cops Can’t Toss Claims Over Shooting

(CN) - Procedural rules will not bar claims against an Atlanta police officer accused of firing a fatal bullet into the brain of a man already wounded and in handcuffs, a federal judge ruled.

Patricia Walker claims her son, Donald Hamilton, died at the hands of Officer Adam Wright in May 2008.

Several bystanders called 911 when they say a "visibly drunk" Hamilton "openly brandishing a gun" outside a club in Atlanta, according to the court's summary of Walker's complaint.

The three officers who responded to the call allegedly drew their guns and instructed Hamilton to put his hands up. Walker says her son complied, but the cops shot him anyway, wounding him in the arms and legs. And, though Hamilton was wounded and handcuffed, Officer Wright shot Hamilton in the back of the head, killing him instantly, according to the complaint.

Walker claims the cops planted a "throw down knife" in Hamilton's buttocks to suggest that he posed a threat to them at the time he was shot. "Throw down" is a term used to describe police-planted evidence, usually a weapon.

Though Walker gave notice through her attorney in August 2008 that the shooting amounted to wrongful death, the city allegedly denied her claim without notifying her counsel.

Walker claims she did not learn about the denied claim until April 2011, at which point she sued the city, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington, and the three officers involved in the shooting.

But the city countered that it had mailed a letter of denial in April 2009, and thus the two-year statute of limitations had expired.

Chief U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes ruled that the city had failed to document transmission of the denial letter or its receipt by Walker's attorney.

The declarations of the city's interim claims manager and the municipal clerk cannot serve as proof of mailing, she said.

Walker, on the other hand, supported her claims with an affidavit from her attorney, who said she had never received the alleged notice of denial.

Concluding that Walker only became aware of the city's denial on April 1, 2011, her claim is still within the statute of limitations, Carnes ruled.

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