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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Retrial Set on Civil Case of AZ Dad Killed by Cop

(CN) - The family of a boat mechanic killed by a police officer near Arizona's Lake Powell must retry their civil claims in March, a federal judge who presided over the hung jury trial ruled.

The incident occurred on Father's Day 2011, in Page, Ariz., a small-town mecca for canyonland tourism and house-boating near the state's borders with Utah and the Navajo Reservation.

Toni Foust had called the local police department that evening over a domestic dispute she was having with her husband, William, at their business, B&T Marine.

She claimed in 2012 federal complaint that things got heated when her husband ordered Shawn Wilson, the Page police officer who responded to the scene, to leave the premises.

When Foust then tried to leave in his truck, Wilson "lost his temper and began screaming profanity-laced orders at Foust, while brandishing his pistol in a threatening manner."

As Foust exited the truck, Wilson allegedly fired his Taser but missed. Foust attempted to get back in the truck, and the two men wrestled for control of the Taser. Wilson then drew his pistol and shot Foust once in the chest and once in the head, the lawsuit states. Foust died later at the hospital. He was 50 years old.

The Coconino County Attorney's office declined to prosecute Wilson, finding that he had been justified in using deadly force to protect himself from Foust. The officer reportedly told investigators that Wilson had tried to hit him with his truck after being "upset, loud, and confrontational with the officer."

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported later that Foust had been a member of an anti-government "sovereign citizen" group called the Republic for the united States of America (RuSA).

For their part, Foust's daughters, Shannon Foust and Brynn Foust D'Avello, claimed in their civil lawsuit that Wilson had a "history of inappropriate, confrontational and unprofessional actions and behavior, leading to numerous run-ins with the citizens of Page, including Bill Foust, and formal complaints to the City of Page."

Neither of these two claims came up, however, as the case went before a jury for seven days in Phoenix late last month. U.S. District Judge David Campbell had deemed both factors unduly prejudicial.

After deliberating for 13 hours, the jury reported that they could not reach a unanimous decision.

Jeff Bouma, who represents Foust's daughters in the case, said in an interview that the jury deadlocked 5-3 over whether Foust had attempted to assault the officer when backing his truck out of the driveway of his business.

A retrial is scheduled for March 23, 2015, in Phoenix, court records show.

"We obviously think that the officer's claims that he was assaulted are false and are simply a post shooting rationalization for his loss of control and deadly overreaction to what was, at best, a misdemeanor investigation into whether an argument Mr. and Mrs. Foust had allegedly had a week previously constituted 'threatening' ... which is what the officer claimed was the justification for legally detaining Foust," Bouma said.

Lawyers for the city of Page did not return requests for comment.

The shooting is believed to have been the first officer-involved death in Page's relatively short history. The small town of less than 10,000 residents was founded by 1957 as a camp for workers building the nearby Glenn Canyon Dam, which backed up the Colorado River to create Lake Powell, a popular if remote attraction in northern Arizona where people often soak up the sun on houseboats.

"We do not believe that having an argument with your wife is a crime that is punishable by death, especially when there is no evidence that the allegations were even true," Bouma added.

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