Jury Clears All Officers Of Wrongdoing In Excessive Force Trial

By Scott Sarvay

February 17, 2011 Updated Feb 17, 2011 at 6:25 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Jury has come out of deliberation and found the four Fort Wayne Police Department commanding officers clear of all wrongdoing in the federal excessive force trial.

Earlier in the day the jury deliberated on the case of the four Fort Wayne police commanders accused of using excessive force during a stand-off in 2005.

Attorneys for the estate of 28-year-old Rudy Escobedo argued passionately Thursday morning that the situation could have been resolved without the loss of Escobedo's life. It was argued that police "were the ones who ended communication, not Rudy."

Jurors heard arguments that Escobedo's family or psychologist should have been permitted to speak with him during the stand-off and that Rudy never put others in danger, only himself, by threatening to commit suicide and asking for help.

Lawyers for the plaintiff also argued that officers went against their own training in putting officers in harm's way and not trying to resolve the situation in the most peaceful way possible. They called their decision to enter the apartment in the manner that they did a "reckless decision that resulted in great harm."

When talking about possible monetary damages, they asked the jury to consider an amount between $100,000 and $1 million for compensatory damages and tens of thousands of dollars in punitive damages. The exact amount, more or less than his suggestions, he said lies in the hands of jurors.

It was argued, however, that Escobedo suffered during the apartment entry due to the tear gas and flash bangs used. Jurors heard that he was afraid that officers would shoot him, and was even more frightened of that after trying to contact officers twice without success following a volley of tear gas during the stand-off.

Then it was the defense's turn to state their case.

They argued that Escobedo was responsible for his own death - not the officers on trial. Defense lawyers pointed out that he was on a path of drug and alcohol abuse since his youth, and was afraid of going to prison.

Jurors heard that in the last seven months of his life, Escobedo was arrested on Operating While Intoxicated charges three times. He was also facing two felony counts of being a habitual substance abuser. He was expected to plead guilty on those charges just two days after he was shot. That could have sent him to jail for up to five years, and lawyers argued that this is why Escobedo was so reluctant to leave his apartment and follow officer orders.

In all, this is a fourth amendment case, and while the plaintiffs argue that Escobedo's right to reasonable search and seizure were violated during entry to the apartment. The defense, however, argues that there is no stipulation that police have to negotiate with suspects, nor an exact time on how long negotiations should last. There must be room for judgment, they say.

Jurors are expected to return a verdict today. We will have crews at the courthouse monitoring the trial's progress.

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Jury is out for deliberation on the federal excessive force trial against four Fort Wayne police commanders.

The trial stems from a 2005 incident where city Swat Team officers shot and killed 28-year-old Rudy Escobedo.

Officers testified that Escobedo was high on cocaine and had a gun. They say their actions were motivated by concern for public and officer safety.

Escobedo's family stands by their assertion that Escobedo didn't have to die and the use of tear gas and flash-bang grenades to enter his apartment was excessive. The family believes he was just in-need of help.




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