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Judge Narrows Focus in Police Shooting Case

SACRAMENTO (CN) - A federal judge dismissed excessive force and other civil rights claims against a Vallejo police officer who shot and killed a student while he was making an anti-violence music video.

According to the federal complaint in Sacramento, Guy J. Jarreau Jr. was directing a film crew consisting of classmates and friends when officers arrived and ordered them to disperse.

However his mother, Andrea Jarreau-Griffin claims that when the film crew attempted to obey the police order, Jarreau was "blocked off by an unmarked police car."

She says at this point City of Vallejo Police Officer Kent Tribble, who was dressed in plain clothes, shot her son without warning or provocation as he raised his hands, in one of which he held a green cup.

After the shooting, Jarreau-Griffin says her son "was incapacitated" and "clearly in need of emergency care."

Despite this, she says, officers, including Tribble, waited "unreasonably long before calling for medical assistance."

Jarreau was taken to John Muir Medical Center and later died from his injuries.

Jarreau-Griffin and her son's estate sued the City of Vallejo and Officer Tribble in his individual and official capacity in December 2012. The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in June 2013, alleging multiple causes of action for excessive force, deprivation of medical care, deprivation of familial relationship, and municipal liability.

A month later, the defendants moved for dismissal of the latter two claims as well as one of two excessive force claims - that the shooting of Jarreau violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller dismissed the excessive force claim predicated on the Fourteenth Amendment, holding that "[A]ll claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force - deadly or not - in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other 'seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment."

In doing so, she left the plaintiffs' claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment undisturbed.

On the second disputed claim, that of Tribble's having deprived plaintiffs of their right to a familial relationship, Mueller found that "the relatives of victims of unlawful police killings have personal standing to claim deprivation of familial relationship under the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."

She then limited Jarreau-Griffin's claims to those based on the Fourteenth Amendment, dismissing the similar claim under the Fourth Amendment.

As for the plaintiffs' claim the City of Vallejo failed to properly train Tribble and other officers on the use of deadly force, Mueller ruled the allegations made in the complaint were insufficient to state a claim.

Finally, Mueller dismissed the plaintiffs' request for punitive damages against the city on the grounds that such damages are not recoverable against public entities.

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