The family of a Fort Worth man who died after they say officers needlessly choked, kicked and shot him with a stun gun during a 2013 drug raid can proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against two officers and the city, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
The court’s ruling will allow a jury to weigh in on the death of Jermaine Darden, 34, who had a heart attack and died during the raid.
Darden’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2014 and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued two rulings that said there were issues in Darden’s case that should be decided by a jury, including evidence suggesting that Darden wouldn’t have died if officers hadn’t used a stun gun on him and forced him onto his stomach.
The Supreme Court agreed with the appeals court that the case should proceed to trial, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office determined that Darden, who weighed 340 pounds, died of natural causes, with sudden cardiac death associated with high blood pressure and the use of restraints.
But a medical expert testified that Darden’s death shouldn’t have been ruled natural, according to the appeal court’s ruling.
Fort Worth officers executing a “no-knock” search warrant on May 16, 2013, burst into the home without warning, court documents show. Witnesses said that officers choked, kicked, punched and shocked Darden, who was inside the home at the time. Several officers applied their weight to Darden’s back, which made it difficult for him to breathe, court filings said.
Lawyers for the city contended that Darden tried to resist arrest, but witnesses said he made no attempt to flee, attack or resist.
The appeals court ruled that a video of the raid shows Darden with his hands raised when the officers entered the home and complying with the officers’ instructions. “Based on evidence in the record, a jury could conclude that no reasonable officer on the scene would have thought that Darden was resisting arrest,” the appeals court found.
The case will return to the U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.
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