Escobedo Trial Nears Finish Line

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

February 16, 2011 Updated Feb 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - A federal jury has heard all the evidence in a trial about how Fort Wayne Police handled a deadly standoff.

City Swat team officers shot and killed Rudy Escobedo in 2005.

Was it a result that should have been avoided?

At issue, did Fort Wayne Police Deputy Chief Marty Bender, retired Deputy Chief Doug Lucker, Lt. Kevin Hunter and Lt. Kevin Zelt use excessive force when they ordered the Swat team to storm Escobedo's apartment, and were the suicidal suspect's Constitutional rights violated?

Lawyers for the officers on Wednesday requested that all claims for damages be thrown out even before the jury gets the case.

Earlier in the trial, four Swat team members were cleared of all wrongdoing by the court, without the jury getting involved.

The commanders ordered the use of tear gas and flash bang grenades before the Swat team moved in, claiming they felt negotiations for peaceful surrender weren't making sufficient progress.

Attorney Robert Keen told U.S. District Court Judge Theresa Springmann, “There are no cases that show how long you have to negotiate before moving to a tactical response.”

Keen said, "When reasonable officers can disagree about how to proceed (in such a standoff), then these officers are entitled to qualified immunity."

Richard Waples, who represents the Escobedo family, countered by telling Judge Springmann that the commanding officers’ actions violated their training.

According to Waples, instead of letting the process play out, they rejected that option, saying, “We just don't want this to drag out.”

It resulted, Waples argued, “In reckless disregard for Rudy Escobedo's 4th Amendment rights.”

The judge is expected to rule on whether the case against the commanders should be thrown out prior to closing arguments Thursday morning.

The judge also must rule on whether punitive damages will be allowed, and whether the police commanders are entitled to qualified immunity, shielding them from liability.

Family members of Escobedo told Indiana’s NewsCenter, their decision to bring the civil suit is not about money, that, “It’s about Justice for Rudy and holding the officers accountable for their actions.”




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