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Man’s death leads to possible civil rights wrongful death suit

Each police department in every state in this country faces the potential for legal action. Wisconsin policemen and policewomen know first-hand that their decisions when thwarting criminals or responding to a need can have long-term consequences. One of the most difficult situations to occur is an alleged wrongful death incident involving the officers.

A family in another state is now facing a tough decision. In a scenario easily imagined to take place anywhere, a relative was shot and killed by a police officer during an altercation. Allegedly the man refused to drop a knife when directed to do so. Responding to the scene of a stabbing, the officers noted the suspect standing outside the home with a knife in his hand. According to the local District Attorney, the officer demanded he drop the knife, and the 33-year-old was shot four times when he refused.

Counsel for the family members has expressed their frustration and anger that the police investigation has taken such a long time. Since the July 27 incident, they have maintained a language barrier caused the victim to behave as he did. The officers stated that the demand to drop the knife was also made in Spanish through a neighbor present at the time. According to police, when he still refused to surrender the weapon and lunged, the fatal shots were fired. A friend stated the man was attempting to hand the knife over when he was shot.

The District Attorney will not press charges against the policeman after the investigation resulted in no probable cause that a crime was committed. The internal investigation as to proper police procedures and policies is ongoing.

Regardless of the type of situation in which they are involved with police, suspects' rights must be protected. It is the responsibility of a police department to safeguard the well-being of all persons. If this doesn't happen, there may be remedies available to those who have lost a loved one or suffered an injury. Police officers are human. Mistakes happen. Sometimes, however, final resolution and accountability need to be determined by a court.

Source: WBAY abc2, "Family considers civil rights suit in death of Jose Ocampo" Dane Huffman, Feb. 20, 2014

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