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Court rules in favor of APD officers

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Albany, Ga.: A U.S. District Court Judge has ruled in favor of two Albany police officers who, in separate cases, were being sued for using excessive force while on the job.

The first case was filed by Alice Mae Warren against Vy Chu, who was working for the Albany Police Department when he shot and injured her daughter July 26, 2006, while he was investigating a vacant home where "suspicious activity" had been reported.

According to the facts of the case listed in the Judge Louis Sands' order dated Sept. 17, Sands writes that Chu knocked on the door at the home at 1305 South Davis Street and loudly identified himself as a police officer.

After receiving no response, he entered through a broken window and searched the house with the gun in the "high ready," position as he would enter a room and then lower it to a "low ready" position after it each room was cleared.

Before leaving the house, Chu checked the back bedroom of the house. With his gun in the "high ready" position, Chu went to open a closet door in the bedroom, when it abruptly opened on its own, startling Chu, who fired the gun, injuring Warren's daughter who was inside.

Court documents state Chu immediately called for assistance and an ambulance and began first aid on the victim. Chu reportedly told the court that he didn't remember pulling the trigger, that he became scared by the presence of the victim and that the gun "went off," while admitting that she posed no "threat of bodily harm," and that "shooting someone who poses no threat of grievous bodily injury is in fact contrary to his police officer training and departmental policy."

In his decision, Sands says that Chu was in fact immune from any civil liability because he was merely performing within the official scope of his position as a police officer when the shooting occurred. Sands writes in his opinion that Chu searching the house with his gun drawn "was reasonably necessary to protect himself and others from any harm therein."

Additionally, Sands' ruled that this case was more an incident of an accidental shooting rather than a misuse of power or force and granted the city's request for a summary judgment in favor of Chu.

In the other case, Officer O.C. Conley was being sued in federal court for excessive force by Richard Dunn --- a Darton College student who believed that Conley violated his fourth and fourteenth amendment rights by using excessive force and unlawful arrest and detention.

According to court documents, Conley was working as a part-time security guard for Darton College on May 5, 2006 and was a full time officer with the APD.

Dunn, who was a student at Darton, entered a building on campus through a private entrance as an administrative assistant was exiting the same door. The assistant told Dunn it was private entrance and directed him to the public entrance instead, when he reportedly told her that it was "his own private entrance," which prompted the assistant to call Darton police to report Dunn's strange behavior.

Conley, who was wearing his uniform at the time, saw Dunn, approached him and told him that he wanted to talk.

Dunn told Conley he didn't want to talk and walked away from Conley, prompting Conley to follow him towards the campus library. At some point, Conley pulled Dunn's backpack off, but Dunn still refused to stop.

Conley then grabbed Dunn by the left arm, which then broke as he went down to the floor. Conley called for an ambulance and police backup and Dunn, who was treated for his broken arm, was charged with obstruction of police which was later dropped.

Conley stated in depositions that he had no probable cause to arrest Dunn and that no crime was committed in his presence, but argued that he had reasonable suspicion to talk to Dunn when Dunn attempted to flee.

Dunn counters, saying that Conley violated the law by failing to identify himself as a Darton security guard and failed to seek his identification before pursuing him.

Like in the Chu case, the city argued that Conley was covered under official immunity but argued that Dunn never argued that the city has any policy that violated his constitutional rights and therefore couldn't sue Conley "in his official capacity," as an APD officer. Sands agreed.

The court further found that Conley was justified to stop Dunn because he had "reasonable suspicion," because of his proximity to the president's office which was restricted, the assistant's report of strange behavior and his efforts to elude Conley.

Finally, Sands wrote that there was no "excessive force," because Conley's takedown was typical of training that officers receive and was standard operating procedure given the fact that Dunn had attempted to elude him.