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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Suit against city dismissed

Relatives of woman killed at group home filed the case

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Toledo and its police department that was filed by the family of a woman who was fatally shot in a group home.

In a 12-page decision released late last week, U.S. District Judge James Carr granted the city's request for dismissal. The lawsuit named the city, the police department, and Officer Diane Chandler, who had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the 2009 shooting death of Linda Hicks.

"Officer Chandler was confronted by an individual advancing toward her with scissors in hand and reasonably believed she was in imminent danger of being stabbed. Her decision to exercise deadly force was objectively reasonable," the judge ruled. "No rational trier of fact could find that she acted wantonly or recklessly."

Ms. Hicks, 62, was shot and killed by Officer Chandler, who along with a fellow officer was responding to a call Dec. 14, 2009, of a person with mental disabilities who had threatened people with scissors. After a confrontation, the officer fired four shots, hitting Ms. Hicks in the head, chest, and abdomen.

Criminal and internal investigations cleared Officer Chandler of wrongdoing. A Lucas County grand jury declined to indict her in January, 2010, on a charge of murder with a gun specification. The police department's firearms review board concluded Officer Chandler acted in self-defense.

Evelyn Patterson, Ms. Hicks' niece and administrator of her estate, filed a wrongful-death complaint in November, 2010, alleging that the officer violated Ms. Hicks' civil rights by using "illegal, excessive, or unjustified force in a reckless or willful manner."

Also named as a defendant was Marria's Adult Family Home on Fernwood Avenue, where Ms. Hicks was a resident.

Attorney Charles Boyk, whose law firm filed the lawsuit, said the family was devastated by the decision. He said they have 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We were disappointed with the decision," he said. " … There is a very high standard on plaintiffs trying to prove a case of excessive force. In some of the circuits, they look at the totality of the circumstances. In this case, they only look at the immediate facts."

Mr. Boyk noted that because the group home did not respond to the complaint, the court awarded his clients a default judgment. He said that at some point, an assessment will be done with regard to that judgment.

In addition to granting a dismissal in favor of the officer, Judge Carr rejected the allegations that the police department did not provide adequate training and that the city or the police department should be liable in a wrongful-death claim. The judge wrote that state law provides immunity for the city when accused of liability in such a claim.

Noting that the ruling could be appealed, city Law Director Adam Loukx would say only that the city agreed with the judge's opinion.

"We're pleased with the ruling," Mr. Loukx said. "We believe it to be consistent with the law but otherwise, we have no comment."

On the same date, another Toledo resident filed a lawsuit in federal court naming the city, police department, and Officer Chandler. Nathaniel Lewis alleged he was stopped after a police pursuit in January, 2010, when he was run into by Officer Chandler's vehicle, causing injury.

The lawsuit was dismissed from U.S. District Court and refiled in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in January. It remains pending before Judge Myron Duhart.

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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