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Old October 11th, 2006, 01:54 PM   #1
Toncomb
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Default Can someone explain this ruling?

I was reading the man suing the SS post and this Mt.Pleasant case was in it. How exactly do you justify killing someone by saying they were going to hurt themselves so we shot them? I'm not questioning the officers decisions just wondering how that works.

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bi...ase&no=980125p
If you don't want to read it all heres the highlighted area, where my comes in.
The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of all the defendants after finding, as a matter of law, that the officers acted reasonably when they shot Thomas. Sova v. City of Mt. Pleasant , 947 F. Supp. 1116, 1122-26 (E.D. Mich. 1996). Although the court specifically found Thomas was not committing a crime and was not fleeing the police when he was shot, the court determined that the threat he posed to himself in part justified the officers' use of deadly force against him.

And the whole story,

Thomas Sova suffered from depression. His depression caused his long-time girlfriend, Sonya Honeycutt, to break up with him. A month later, Thomas attempted to reconcile with Sonya. That night he was drinking with some friends at a local bar and called Sonya several times in an attempt to patch up their relationship. Sonya told Thomas she thought it would be best if they stayed apart until he recovered from his depression. Based on his reaction to their conversation, Sonya correctly feared he would try to commit suicide. She called her mother, who then called Thomas's parents to convey Sonya's fears about his mental and emotional state. The Sovas then got into separate cars to look for their son.

By 9:00 p.m., Thomas was drunk and decided to walk to his parents' house. No one was home when he arrived. It was at this time that Thomas apparently began harming himself. Thirty minutes later, Thomas's father returned home. Mr. Sova went around to the back of the house, walked through the screened-in porch, and found the back door to the kitchen locked. Through the door panes he saw blood on the kitchen floor. Fearing the worst, Mr. Sova ran next door and asked a neighbor to call 911 and an ambulance. The dispatcher received this call at 9:27 p.m. When Mr. Sova ran back to the house, Thomas appeared in the kitchen barechested, holding two butcher knives with blood running from gashes on his arms and chest.

Shortly thereafter, at 9:32 p.m., an ambulance and police officers Jeffrey Shell and Daniel Gaffka arrived. By this time, Thomas had moved to a window on the second floor. He broke a number of window panes with the knives and further cut himself on the broken glass as he yelled down at thepolice to go away. Thomas's mother arrived at this time. Noticing the tension, she attempted to defuse the situation by asking the police to leave, telling them that she and her husband could handle it. In response, the police told her they were in charge of the situation because Thomas was "ruining her windows" and "committing a crime by attempting suicide." (It is not a crime to attempt suicide in Michigan.) There is some evidence that Thomas then threatened to get a gun and that Mr. Sova told the police there were firearms in the house. Mr. Sova denies making such a statement.

Thomas then went back downstairs and walked from the kitchen, through the porch, and onto the lawn with the knives pointing skyward. The police had not set up a perimeter, so Thomas confronted a number of people in the yard. Thomas again asked the police to leave. When Mrs. Sova tried to comfort Thomas, he avoided her and got blood on her clothes. He returned to the kitchen and slammed the door, yelling for his parents to make the police "go away." Mrs. Sova tried to follow him inside, but the police moved her away from the porch.

The situation escalated immediately after Sgt. LaLone arrived on the scene at 9:36 p.m.; he shot Thomas dead within ten minutes of his arrival. Sgt. LaLone and Officers Shell and Gaffka moved into the screened-in porch with guns drawn at 9:38 p.m. When Thomas broke the kitchen window with a knife, Sgt. LaLone asked what he wanted. Thomas replied that he wanted the police to shoot him. When he moved toward the door, the officers then began screaming at him and crouched in firing positions. Sgt. LaLone yelled that Thomas should drop the knives before he came out. Thomas pulled the kitchen door open, pushed the screen door, and stepped onto the porch still holding the knives. Officer Gaffka immediately sprayed mace in his face, forcing him to retreat. Agitated, Thomas began breaking the door panes, dragging his arms across the shards, and slashing himself on the chest and arms. Shortly thereafter, he decided to leave the kitchen again. When he pushed the screen door open, Sgt. LaLoneand Officer Shell fired three times. Officer Gaffka did not fire his gun.

Two of the shots fired by Sgt. LaLone and Officer Shell struck Thomas. The first shot tore a hole in his heart. The second ripped through his right forearm. Upon impact, Thomas spun around in the doorway, stumbled through the kitchen, and collapsed in the hall. He was shot at 9:46 p.m., fourteen minutes after the first police officer had arrived on the scene. The Mt. Pleasant Police Department apparently lost the slugs that killed Thomas as well as the shell casings found on the scene. An autopsy showed Thomas's blood-alcohol level was 0.26 percent when he was shot. When the police searched the house they found several rifles laid out on the bed in the upstairs bedroom where Thomas had broken the window.

After Thomas's death, the Sovas sued the three officers, the police department, the chief of police, and the city in state court. When they amended their complaint to add a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the defendants removed the case to federal court. After extensive discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of all the defendants after finding, as a matter of law, that the officers acted reasonably when they shot Thomas. Sova v. City of Mt. Pleasant , 947 F. Supp. 1116, 1122-26 (E.D. Mich. 1996). Although the court specifically found Thomas was not committing a crime and was not fleeing the police when he was shot, the court determined that the threat he posed to himself in part justified the officers' use of deadly force against him. 1 The court alsoemphasized how the police "were given less than fifteen minutes to take control of the situation." Id. at 1125. It did not acknowledge that the confrontation ended within fifteen minutes because the police shot and killed Thomas.

The court gave Sgt. LaLone and Officer Shell qualified immunity and found Officer Gaffka was not liable because he did not fire his weapon. Id. at 1125-26. The city, the police department, and the police chief were not liable because the court held the officers did not deprive Thomas of a constitutional right. Id. at 1127. Lastly, the court granted summary judgment on all the Sovas' supplemental state law claims. Id. at 1128- 30. The Sovas appeal to this Court for reversal.

Last edited by Toncomb; October 12th, 2006 at 11:23 AM.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:02 PM   #2
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Mike has never been the same after that . . . he thinks if they can just shoot Tom why can't they shoot him? Tom, Mike . . . similar plain names
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:03 PM   #3
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it was quite rediculous, you would think they would shoot him in the leg or something. I've heard this story quite a few time from my old boss.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cmujeeper
Mike has never been the same after that . . . he thinks if they can just shoot Tom why can't they shoot him? Tom, Mike . . . similar plain names
haha, actually my uncle's name is Tom and somebody called our house when this happend because they heard that Tom Sova was killed by the police. I kind of forgot about it until I moved to Mount Pleasant, it was quite a big deal around here.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 02:24 PM   #5
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So I guess killing him was better than letting him hurt himself?? That is some fucked up logic.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 04:00 PM   #6
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weird case it does say in part because " he posed a threat to himself " ... if you have a weapon and you are wielding it and the police are called thats what you get. There is a few cases like this in the news in detroit last 2-3 years. one in detroit a family with a deaf son, he was wacked out from not taking his meds or on drugs i think, either way i think he was not the most sane guy. He was busting up the house and family members. He was brandishing a shovel or some lawn tool at the police kinda chasing them. They shot his ass dead, and the family was all bitchy about it they say they just wanted to police to talk to him and settle him down. Police are not miracle workers if you cant make your sucidal kid take meds, and he is out of control the police do not get a standard issue from staples. They have to make split second decisions. They also get sued when they dont shoot the psycho kid, and then goes and stabs his gf or mom. His old man would likely sue them if his wife was killed by his nutso kid.

The police job is to eliminate threats, not be family conselor. Dont call the police on someone unless you want them to possibly be arrested. If they dont want to be arrested, expect them to be tasered, shot, etc. If that sova guy had a weapon and one cop said one time drop the knife, and then he started flaing about and cutting him self and not listening .... i would have shot him also.

Last edited by jamiesann; October 11th, 2006 at 04:04 PM.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 04:03 PM   #7
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My point is that police do go through weapons proficiency......if they thought he was only a danger to himself I believe a shoulder wound or 2 could have been sufficient......but then again...I wasn't there so it's hard to judge. It just seems messed up from the outside looking in without more details.

Personally I'd have been Wyatt Earp and shot the gun from his hand.....but hey....this way....he can't sue :shrug:
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Old October 11th, 2006, 04:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fr3db3ar
My point is that police do go through weapons proficiency......if they thought he was only a danger to himself I believe a shoulder wound or 2 could have been sufficient......but then again...I wasn't there so it's hard to judge. It just seems messed up from the outside looking in without more details.

Personally I'd have been Wyatt Earp and shot the gun from his hand.....but hey....this way....he can't sue :shrug:
dont feel bad i just found out a few years ago when the detroit case happened with the shovel wielding psycho ... the cops are supposed to eliminate the threat ie shoot to kill. Wounding guys, shooting guns out of a robbers hands etc thats hollywood. Real life cops are supposed to shoot you dead, no maimeing you and then rush you to the hospital and wish you a speedy recovery. Again, if they were to shoot this guy in the shoulder and he stabs his mom, his father would end up sueing the police. You gotta eliminate the threat.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 07:15 PM   #9
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As I stated above I'M NOT QUESTIONING THE COPS DESICION, just wondering how any judge could put that in his ruling. To me it did not make any sense, yes a crazy drunk with knives is more than enough justification to shoot, not my point. Just trying to figure out how ANY one could say even partial justification from hurting yourself.
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Old October 11th, 2006, 08:19 PM   #10
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a) Cops (and everyone else legally carrying a weapon) is taught to "shoot to neutralize the threat". As stated earlier, shooting in the leg, shoulder, hand, etc... is Hollywood nonsense.

b) An unstable individual brandishing a weapon is a threat to those around them, as well as themselves. If you're threatening to use a weapon on yourself, it has to be assumed that you'd have no compunction using it on someone else first. The threat has to be neutralized.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 11:32 AM   #11
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I just found this
http://www.edcen.ehhs.cmich.edu/~vsova/
Upper courts reversed low courts ruling.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 01:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesova
it was quite rediculous, you would think they would shoot him in the leg or something. I've heard this story quite a few time from my old boss.

Repeat after me:

Michigan law does not recognize "shoot to wound".

Every shot is considered deadly force.


Okay, now you have a guy who is drunk and mentally ill. He is agitated, armed with a deadly weapon, and showing a willingness to cause injury.

You go to talk him into surrendering. You've got him contained in an area from which he cannot escape. Refusing to drop the deadly weapon (which has shown in court cases to be faster than a gun within twice a man's arm's length) he moves aggressively toward the you.

You can't just step aside let him go. He can't just leave because he wants to.

Your avenue of retreat is a narrow hallway and he's very close.

Okay keyboard commandos, what do you do. Remember, there is no such thing as "shoot to wound" in Michigan.

You haven't been issued a Taser, which would have probably saved that Sova kid's life, or at least put his death off until the next incident.

Striking weapons (ASP, baton, etc.) put you within arm's reach of the blade, thus eliminating them as options.

Pepper spray, if issued, would be detrimental to you as well in the confined space. There would be a guy with a knife and you suddenly can't see real well.

Please, tell me what you would do when the knife wielding, drunk, and mentally ill man slippery from the blood and therefore difficult to grasp comes at you with a knife.

Although heartbreaking for the family the shooting was justifiable. In one quick movement the deceased ran those cops out of options, and they did what they had to do to protect themselves.
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Old October 12th, 2006, 01:54 PM   #13
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well said jelly belly, toncomb last post with the memorial for the sova kid made me mad (not at toncomb ... but the moms post incident view of the happening ... cant blame her she is a grieving mom ) The parents after the fact make it sound soooo innocent what he was doing. If he was so normal, kind, and peaceful why did they call the police. If they could calm the poor kid down how are the police supposed to calm him ? Cops did the best they could. What they WISH happened and what did happen do not justify a lawsuit, or not so great spin on the officer (had he had a 2-3 other controversial incidents i would be more on her side)

Throw in a knife and stabbing one's self and all bets are off.

Last edited by jamiesann; October 12th, 2006 at 01:58 PM.
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