published Friday, July 15th, 2011

Lawsuit dismissed in police shooting

Almost two years after a man was killed when six Chattanooga police officers fired 43 bullets at him, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the city by the man’s family.

In a summary judgement issued Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier disposed of the claims brought against the city by the family of Alonzo Heyward.

Heyward, 32, was killed July 18, 2009, during an early morning standoff with police, during which he dared the officers to shoot him while he was holding a rifle.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had cleared the officers in 2009, but Heyward’s family had pressed forward with a lawsuit, claiming the officers were not adequately trained in use-of-force policy and created an “atmosphere of illegal and unconstitutional behavior” in “deliberate indifference and reckless disregard” for the public welfare, the federal court lawsuit stated.

The trial had been set for the final week of July. But in response to the defense’s motion for a summary judgement, Collier ordered that the officers were completely justified in their decision to use deadly force as Heyward began to enter a home during the standoff that night — a home the officers did not know was Heyward’s own.

“In order to prevent Heyward from entering the house and potentially harming civilians, firing at the police from cover, or even initiating a hostage situation — all reasonable possibilities in light of Heyward’s repeated implied threats, disregard for police authority, intoxicated state, “locked and loaded” disposition — the Officers were, at the moment if not before, entitled to use deadly force against him,” Collier stated in his judgement

The plaintiff’s case was brought on behalf of Heyward’s children with two women.

Allen Johnson, the grandfather of Heyward’s daughter Aniyha Heyward, said the case’s dismissal is disappointing.

The officers alleged that Heyward had pointed the gun down in their direction, while other witnesses claimed he never did.

Collier said ultimately that whether the gun was lowered toward the officers was “immaterial to the question of whether it was reasonable for the officers to use deadly force at this moment.”

Attorney Bryan Hoss, who represented the officers, said the ruling came as a surprise and a relief for the officers, who were preparing for a two-week trial.

“They’re ready to move on. It’s been weighing on them for two years now,” said Hoss said. “It’s clear vindication that what they did was right.”

Staff writer Andrew Pantazi contributed to this story.

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chioK_V said...

Collier said ultimately that whether the gun was lowered toward the officers was “immaterial to the question of whether it was reasonable for the officers to use deadly force at this moment.”<

Reasonable is one thing. Overkill is something totally different. It's not a vindication as much as it is one judges opinion. Which isn't worth all that much these days.

July 15, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

Heyward, 32, was killed July 18, 2009, during an early morning standoff with police, during which he dared the officers to shoot him while he was holding a rifle.

I am sorry for this man's troubled life and death. It pains me there are so many people in our society, especially young men, who cannot find for themselves a life of fulfillment and stability and purpose.

However, if a police officer tells you to put the gun down, you must put the gun down. I think that's the message that needs to go out to our society, especially the young men. And that's the lesson of this ruling. If we're going to insist that everyone can walk around packing heat all the time, no matter how intoxicated or angry or troubled they are, and claim that's a good way for all of us to live, then there has to be instantaneous compliance with the referees who say, Time out! Stop what you're doing and put the gun down.

And you do it immediately, not after delivering Hamlet's soliloquy.

July 15, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
ampski said...

I'm not surprised! cops kills everyday!

July 15, 2011 at 11:11 a.m.
bret said...

This wasn't a gunfight. It was an execution.

July 15, 2011 at 1:21 p.m.
amnestiUSAF84 said...

bret said...

This wasn't a gunfight. It was an execution <

And a brutal, unnecessary one at that.

July 15, 2011 at 2:43 p.m.
ak1287 said...

Brutal and unnecessary, amnesti? A man has a (as far as the police know) loaded weapon, is belligerent, walking into a house that (as far as the police know) is not his. Even with that, and without the testimony of the implied threats and otherwise disconcerting behavior, is enough to tell someone to stop and drop their weapon. Anything past that is officer safety- does anyone really care about that anymore?

July 15, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.
brokentoe said...

ak1287 said... Brutal and unnecessary, amnesti? A man has a (as far as the police know) loaded weapon, is belligerent, walking into a house that (as far as the police know) is not his


belligerent? Now! Now! All that wasn't in the original findings. Must have been added much much later. Did they place these cops in a room and allegedly told them to stay there until they get their stories straight like in that other situation?

The way those cops wildly shot up everything, including a dog, a fish tank inside someone's home, they were more of a danger than the lone troubled individual obviously having a mental breakdown. Well, they still have their jobs.

July 15, 2011 at 9:21 p.m.
01centare said...

And your point is? jack? Weren't one of those cops involved in the Alonzo Heyward killing later said to have been drunk in their patrol car when they ran into the side of a city bus? Are these the fine officers Judge Collier is talking about?

July 16, 2011 at 6:55 p.m.
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