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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

West Toledo family will appeal wrongful-death suit's dismissal

The family of a West Toledo man killed two years ago by a city police officer said yesterday it will appeal the dismissal this week of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed against the officer and the city.

U.S. District Judge James Carr granted motions by the city to dismiss the suit filed by Nicholas Sargent, the brother of Donald Sargent.

Donald Sargent, 19, was shot in the chest by Officer Joseph Taylor on April 20, 2002, when police were sent to his home, 3904 Leybourn Ave., in response to a loud party. He ran from police to an upstairs room where, after Officer Taylor opened the door, Donald Sargent turned toward him with a gun. Officer Taylor told him to drop the gun, but Mr. Sargent shouted something back. The officer fired a shot, according to court records.

The suit was filed in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in April, 2003. Nicholas Sargent, who was identified as administrator of his brother's estate, asked for more than $3 million in compensation. Two months later, the case was transferred to U.S. District Court at the city's request.

Mark Schmollinger, an attorney with the city law department, called the judge's decision "very thorough."

"The officer doesn't have to wait until he's looking down the barrel of a gun to defend himself," he said.

Martin Delahunty III, who represented Nicholas Sargent in the suit, said he and his client disagree with the decision and said they will file an appeal in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"I believe it's a tragedy that shouldn't have happened," Mr. Delahunty said.

Gregg Harris, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said he thinks the decision "shows that Joe Taylor was not reckless, and that he was simply defending himself, and that he was just doing his job."

The police department's firearms review board ruled the shooting was justified.

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