Killing unarmed, innocent people is going to cost the city of Denver millions. Police brutality is very, very expensive.Jury may hear Lobato case
Family says poorly trained cops killed unarmed man, 63
By Sara Burnett
Originally published 12:30 a.m., December 5, 2007
Updated 08:06 a.m., December 5, 2007
A federal judge has ruled that a jury deserves to hear a family's claims that failure to train and discipline Denver police officers led to the shooting death of an unarmed 63-year-old.
The family is suing the city and the officers involved in the death of Frank Lobato, who was accidentally shot in his bed by an officer searching for a domestic violence suspect in the home. The 2004 killing ignited protests and contributed to changes in how Denver monitors police shootings.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis T. Babcock dismissed some of the family's claims. But he said there is enough evidence for other allegations to go forward. Among them:
* The city did not properly train police officers on use of force and shooting decisions.
* The city did not adequately discipline officers accused of excessive or unnecessary use of force.
* The officer who shot Lobato and the officer's supervisors conducted an illegal search when the officer entered Lobato's bedroom.
* The officer and supervisors are guilty of excessive force.
The ruling is a setback for the city, but City Attorney David Fine said it doesn't necessarily indicate what a jury's verdict would be.
On Tuesday, Mayor John Hickenlooper and the Denver City Council met privately to discuss the case. Fine would not comment on the discussions, but he said the city has been talking to the Lobato family's attorney about a financial settlement.
"If we can reach a point where both sides are comfortable with a settlement, then it will happen," Fine said. "If not, the other alternative in the case . . . is to go to trial."
Kenneth Padilla, a Denver civil rights attorney who represents the Lobato family, said he could not comment on any settlement. But he said he feels vindicated by the ruling.
"It is my fervent hope that the ruling by Judge Babcock will not go unheeded, and will lead to changes in the way the city trains and disciplines its officers," Padilla said. "We are imprisoned by the past as long as we do not recognize its influence on the future."
Cans in Lobato's room
Police went to the home where Lobato was staying on July 11, 2004, after an injured woman told them she had been held there against her will and beaten by another man.
The woman told police they would find her attacker lying on a couch on the first floor, and an uncle - Lobato - might be in an upstairs bedroom.
Officers looked inside the first floor and saw no one. Three officers, including Ranjan Ford Jr., then used a ladder to climb into an open second-story window, approaching Lobato's closed bedroom.
There is a dispute over whether the officers knocked on the door or announced their presence, according to the court documents. One of the officers opened the door, and Ford fired one shot, killing Lobato.
Ford later said Lobato had been sitting upright in his bed, holding a shiny object the officer believed was a gun, though others dispute that account. Authorities say it is possible Lobato was holding a pop can that Ford mistook for a weapon because several cans were found around the room.
A grand jury heard the case but could not agree there was probable cause to charge Ford criminally. In an agreement with the city, Ford was suspended for 50 days.
In 2005, Lobato's family sued.
Judge Babcock's ruling
In his ruling a few weeks ago, Babcock threw out several claims, including all allegations against Police Chief Gerald Whitman and claims that the city did not hire competent officers. But the judge listed several reasons for allowing other claims to proceed.
He noted that the city admitted its officers did not receive annual training on use of force, in part because it was expensive. An expert on police policies also questioned the department's training on "decisional shooting," or when to fire a weapon because it was conducted at a target range instead of simulating real situations.
The same expert also said Denver sustained less than 1 percent of its excessive and unnecessary force complaints - a smaller percent than other comparable cities, Babcock wrote.
That argument "provides some evidence of a City custom or policy not to discipline its officers for the use of excessive force," Babcock said.
The city has taken some steps to change its policies. Manager of Safety Al LaCabe proposed a new discipline system he hopes to have in place by February. It would speed up the process and make consequences of violations more clear.
The department also has included use of force training in officers' mandatory, quarterly training, court records show.Read the rest...
Labels: Police Brutality, Police State, Racism