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Florida family hits Lake County sheriff with wrongful death claim

The family and girlfriend of a Florida man who was fatally shot by a sheriff's deputy in Lake County is demanding $75,000 in damages, according to a recently-filed federal lawsuit. The plaintiffs' wrongful death lawsuit accuses the deputy of contributing to the victim's death by failing to announce himself when he knocked on the man's door. According to the lawsuit, this policy "departs from the appropriate standard of care" and thus makes the deputy and Lake County sheriff liable for the victim's death.

According to the lawsuit, the deputy arrived at the suspect's apartment on an early July morning, wrongfully believing it was home to a suspect in a battery case. The deputy then beat on the victim's door "in such a manner to bewilder or frighten" the man, failing to announce himself as a law enforcement officer. The victim reportedly opened the door with a firearm in his hand, prompting the deputy to fire his own gun six times and hit the man with four bullets.

The plaintiffs argue that the shooting was unlawful and directly violated the victim's Constitutional rights. Their attorney asserts that they chose to file the lawsuit after a failed attempt to resolve the issue with the Lake County sheriff's office. The victim's girlfriend says she joined the claim because she suffered substantial emotional harm due to the shooting; she also claims to have suffered physical injuries from flying glass.

Official reports show that the deputy was searching for a suspect believed to have attacked the son of a lieutenant with the sheriff's office. Officers located two vehicle's belonging to the man near the victim's unit, believing their suspect to be inside. Following the fatal shooting, several deputies located the suspect in another apartment. He was initially charged with battery, though that charge was later reduced. Lawyers for both the suspect and the victim's family argue that the charge was exaggerated to justify the deputy's shooting of the victim.

Source: Daily Commercial, "Family of man killed by cops seeks $75K," Millard K. Ives, March 10, 2013

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