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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Shooting of Suicidal Man Upheld in 7th Circuit

CHICAGO (CN) - Police cannot be held liable for fatally shooting a suicidal man who had barricaded himself in a bedroom closet, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Indiana resident Rudy Escobedo had called 911 at around 4 a.m. on July 19, 2005, and reported that he had taken cocaine and was holding a gun to his head. A Fort Wayne emergency response team was dispatched to the scene.

Escobedo was facing prison time and had several prior arrests for substance abuse. He told officers that he would shoot anyone who entered his apartment. Because Escobedo's weapon had a range of over a mile, and his apartment was located near a hospital and school, officers were concerned that he would harm others.

After almost four hours of negotiations with the Crisis Response Team, police began a tactical plan to remove Escobedo from the building.

Firing tear gas and flash-bang grenades ahead of them, members of the Fort Wayne Emergency Services Team breached the apartment. The officers then broke down Escobedo's bedroom door and tossed a flash-bang grenade into the room. The explosive detonated approximately 2 feet from Escobedo's head.

Officers found Escobedo seated in the bedroom closet with a gun to his head. Rather than dropping his gun, Escobedo allegedly pointed it at Officer Brian Martin. Martin shot Escobedo 12 times with his service revolver. Officer Jason Brown shot Escobedo with six rubber bullets as well.

Escobedo was pronounced dead at 8:59 a.m.

In a subsequent lawsuit, Escobedo said that the individual officers and Fort Wayne Police Department used excessive force.

U.S. District Judge Theresa Springman ruled that most of the officers could not be held liable for shooting Escobedo, but she let the claims against commanding officers regarding the use of the flashbangs go to trial.

A jury later ruled in favor of the police, and Springman entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of the officers.

The 7th Circuit affirmed entirely Friday.

First, the police were entitled to introduce a psychological assessment of Escobedo to impeach testimony that he was in good spirits prior to the shooting.

Moreover, the appeals court determined, there was no evidence to indicate that the officers' actions were unreasonable.

"The facts that emerged at trial indicate that the officers believed that Escobedo was unusually dangerous, as he was hallucinating, high on drugs, and wielding a handgun; the room the team was trying to enter was dark and barricaded; and the doorway itself created a 'fatal funnel' through which each officer would have to pass while Escobedo could have shot them," Judge Daniel Manion wrote for the panel.

"The facts in this case indicate that the choice to deploy a flashbang without first inspecting the barricaded room into which it was thrown was reasonable, and that Escobedo did not have a clearly established constitutional right to be free from the use of a flashbang."

Because there was no violation of Escobedo's rights, his family is not entitled to damages.

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