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ARTICLE ID 9958

$________ Wrongful Death - personal injuries - 42 U.S.C. Sec ________ Civil rights action - failure of defendant Wayne County Sheriff's Department to monitor and discipline its officers - unfit deputy sheriff, with history of violent, erratic behavior, shoots estranged wife, sister and brother-in-law.

WAYNE County, MICHIGAN

The subject action arose out of a shooting incident involving an unstable and abusive deputy sheriff who went on a rampage and shot his estranged wife, sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The plaintiff brought suit against the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department under 42 U.S.C. Sec ________ alleging that the plaintiffs’ and the decedent’s civil rights had been violated by the defendant County Sheriff Department’s breach of its duty to monitor and discipline the officers of the department, thus permitting this unfit deputy sheriff to continue in his position unimpeded. As a result, the sheriff’s estranged wife was rendered paraplegic, his sister-in-law was fatally wounded and his brother-in-law suffered a bullet wound to the chest resulting in a collapsed lung.

The plaintiff’s evidence indicated that this deputy sheriff had a long history of erratic, abusive, unprofessional and sometimes violent behavior. The plaintiff offered evidence indicated that the officer had repeatedly exhibited behavior demonstrating that he was unfit to serve as a sheriff, including drinking and crying on the job during the months he was separated from his wife just before the shooting. In addition, the officer had been involved in a locker room shooting, beating of prisoners, gun play against another deputy and had been the subject of both a jail administrator complaint as well as a citizen’s complaint. The plaintiff showed that the department never investigated any of the incidents of improper behavior and contended that the department was deliberately indifferent to whether its officers were fit for their responsibilities. The plaintiff elicited an acknowledgment from the current administrator of the Department that a bad officer can be dangerous to the public either on or off duty. The plaintiff maintained, therefore, that a strict oversight of the officers is needed to ensure suitability. The plaintiff further elicited testimony revealing an existing code of silence within the department which protected deputies from disclosure regarding poor performance. This code of silence was acknowledged by high level officials within the department and was of long-standing nature.

The defendant asserted that the shooting took place while the sheriff was off duty and that the shooting was strictly a "family matter," unrelated to department activities. The jury found for the plaintiffs and returned a gross verdict of $________, including $________ to the plaintiff wife and $________ to the estate of the decedent sister-in-law.

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