That time my client was shot through his front door

Here’s the original dash cam footage and audio from a case I handled a few years back that’s educational in several respects. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this footage, in my mind, is towards the end of the video, where you hear a state trooper come up to the deputy sheriff who had shot my client, and inform him that he was going to be the officer investigating the shooting, and basically told him to stop talking, and to go home and sleep on it first. Indeed, once he did so, the narrative changed from what can be heard in the video.

You hear the shooter tell his version of what had occurred three times at the scene. None of which suggested that the shooting was justified. Not surprisingly, the official written statement which comes out a few days later, is nothing like what he said three times at the scene. Instead, the shooter later claimed to have seen my client with a gun before he fired.

Here are the rounds which traveled through the door.

Also, you can see the boot print from where he kicked the door:

Since this was a police shooting of someone who was not yet in police custody, the legality of the use of force is judged using the Fourth Amendment, under the “Graham Factors.” Here are the actual jury instructions which were to be used at the jury trial:

Your verdict must be for the plaintiff (and against the defendant) for violation of the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force if all the following elements have been proved:

First, the defendant shot the plaintiff through the front door of his home, and

Second, the force used was excessive because it was not reasonably necessary to shoot the plaintiff through his front door in order to interview the plaintiff, and

Third, the defendant was acting under color of state law.

In determining whether the force was “excessive,” you must consider: the need for the application of force; the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used; the extent of the injury inflicted; and whether a reasonable officer on the scene, without the benefit of hindsight, would have used that much force under similar circumstances.  You should keep in mind that the decision about how much force to use often must be made in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly changing. 

Deadly force may be used only if it is reasonably believed necessary to prevent a significant threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others.  A warning must be given, if possible, before deadly force may be used.  You must decide whether the officer’s actions were reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting the officer without regard to the officer’s own state of mind, intention or motivation.  In making this determination, you may take into account the severity of the crime at issue, whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the defendant or others, and whether the plaintiff actively resisted arrest or attempted to evade arrest by flight.

If any of the above elements has not been proved, then your verdict must be for the defendant. “Deadly force” is force intended or reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury.

This is essentially the same test which is used in criminal prosecutions of police officers for excessive force violations – i.e., Breonna Taylor, and so on. There never was a criminal charge against this particular officer. The West Virginia State Police performed the official investigation and found that the shooting was justified. Thus, our lawsuit was the only litigation connected to it. Ultimately, we settled the case – only days before trial.

5 thoughts on “That time my client was shot through his front door

  1. I’m filing a pro se case for a 12 year terror and punishment campaign against me by law enforcement and “above” although I’m not trying to sue the above agencies..

    I filed twice before(5 counting amendments) but is always blocked by Judges for mocking reasons.
    I’ve done the work, if you are willing to just look the paperwork over and tell me what I need to change or do, to judge proof the complaint, you can take any percentage you want of any settlement. I have documentation and their are dash cams to support my claims

  2. Do you have to settle? Wouldn’t it be better to take the cop through a full trial? Serious question looking for serious explanation. 🙂

    • I believe settlements are agreed to, because you never know what a jury will do. Sure it would be better to fully expose what happened in a court of law, but if you lose your client would receive nothing for their injuries.

      • Civil Rights cases are extremely risky to try for various reasons. In the end, it’s always the client’s decision whether to accept a settlement. A full trial does no good if you lose. It’s a civil case, not criminal. In the end, all you can obtain is money. If they offer sufficient money, you accept it.

  3. How can you ever have trust in the West Virginia State Police after watching the video and hearing the audio and then they announce that the shooting was justified? The blue wall of silence wins again. I hope you settled for a large sum. Please tell me if the officer who shot him get any punishment at all?

Leave a Reply