Friday, March 24, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Veteran Killed by Cops May Leave City Liable

VANCOUVER, Wash. (CN) - The family of a 22-year-old veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was fatally shot by police has standing to sue, a federal judge ruled.

Nikkolas Lookabill, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was shot 13 times by police after officers said he refused to drop his handgun in September 2010.

Lookabill's former stepfather Frank Wescom, Jr. and his half-brother Gage Wescom sued the city of Vancouver and the police officers involved in the shooting, and filed an amended complaint in August 2013.

The city and the police officers claimed the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because, among other things, there is not an authorized personal representative to pursue their claims. They argued that a former step-parent and half-sibling do not have due process liberty interest in their relationship with an adult child or half-sibling.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan dismissed much of the action Thursday but preserved a claim against Vancouver under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This count alleges that police had improperly tried to arrest Lookabill "because they misperceived the effects of that disability [PTSD] as criminal activity."

"Although defendants argue that other circuits and district courts that have examined the question of 'wrongful arrest' have held that the Title II of the ADA does not apply when the police use force in response to threatening conduct, [...] that defense is premature at this stage in the proceedings," the 17-page ruling states.

The judge dismissed the family's state-law claims for assault and battery, negligence, and wrongful death after finding they did not properly respond to the defendants' arguments.

The Wescoms will have another chance to amend their complaint, according to the ruling.

They are represented by Darryl Parker and Ada Ko Wong of Premier Law Group in Bellevue, Wash.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.