MILWAUKEE (CN) - Two police officers shot in the head with an illegally bought gun won a $5 million judgment against the shop that supplied their shooter.
After a full day of deliberation, the jury in the trial against Badger Guns, its owners and its predecessors returned the verdict late Tuesday, according to news reports.
Officers Brian Norberg and Graham Kunisch bought the case after they were shot in the head during their first night on patrol in 2009 by Julius Burton, who is now serving 80 years in prison for the crime.
Burton testified from prison last week that Badger Guns was the go-to place for buying guns illegally. In Burton's case, he was just 18 years old and in need of a straw buyer, someone older than 21 to purchase a handgun for him.
Though Norberg has continued to work as a police officer since the shooting, Kunisch lost an eye and testified earlier this week that surgeries and personality changes he has suffered keep him on duty-disability retirement.
The officers are represented by Patrick Dunphy of Cannon & Dunphy in Brookfield.
While a 2005 federal law protects gun sellers from liability when their wares are used to commit a crime, the plaintiffs here claimed that Badger Guns' behavior fell into an exception: that the seller knew or should have known the guns it sold were being used to commit crimes.
Indeed the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported after a long-running investigation that "Norberg and Kunisch were among six Milwaukee police officers injured over a 20-month period with guns sold by Badger Guns or [its predecessor] Badger Outdoors."
Trailed by a long list of past violations, Badger's license had also been under review prior to the Norberg and Kunisch shooting, the Journal Sentinel reports.
A Google search lists Badger Guns as "permanently closed," but lists a business called Brew City Shooters Supply, a gun shop and shooting range, at the same address.
Brew City's website says it opened in 2012 and lists the owner as Mike Allan, the brother of Adam Allan, who sold guns at Badger Guns until his license was revoked.
James Vogts and Wendy Gunderson, two of the defense attorneys for Badger Guns, have not returned requests for comment.
Dunphy's co-counsel at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence noted that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act "has made such victories all but impossible" before now.
"This case should serve as a warning to all gun dealers who resort to irresponsible and unsafe business practices," Brady Campaign president Dan Gross said in a statement. "You must be responsible corporate citizens or the Brady Center will hold you accountable. With 89 people dying every day from guns, Americans have had enough of the special rules that make gun companies richer and place ordinary people in danger of being shot and killed."
A similar lawsuit brought by two other Milwaukee police officers is set to go to trial in May, according to online court records.
These officers are also represented by Dunphy.
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