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Kaady family names city, county in federal lawsuit

Renowned attorney Gerry Spence hired

The family of Fouad Kaady filed a lawsuit against the city of Sandy and Clackamas County last week in federal court, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Kaady's death.

Kaady was shot and killed by Sandy police officer Bill Bergin and Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Willard Sept. 8, 2005, after a string of seemingly bizarre events including several hit-and-run collisions, a car fire and a possible assault.

He was naked, bleeding and severely burned during the fatal police encounter near Cottrell Grade School, northwest of Sandy.

The 31-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Sept. 6, claims that the county, the city and the officers violated Kaady's civil rights. The 10-claim complaint alleges excessive force, unconstitutional arrest and wrongful death.

Specifically, the suit accuses the defendants of 'unreasonable use of a Taser weapon', 'unreasonable use of deadly force', 'unconstitutional municipal policy' in Clackamas County and in the city of Sandy, 'unlawful policy' by the acts of Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts and Sandy Police Chief Harold Skelton, having an 'informal custom and policy' that encourages Taser use over physical restraint tactics, and initiating an unconstitutional arrest.

Furthermore, it claims that the police-involved shooting was 'oppressive, malicious … (and) motivated by evil motive or intent.'

Kaady family members seek monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial. That amount would include memorial service expenses, the loss of Kaady's lifetime wages, compensation for pain and suffering, attorneys' fees and punitive judgments against the officers.

'We're hoping for a fair and just exploration of what happened, and maybe some result that will be a living testament to Fouad Kaady's life,' said Michelle Burrows one of the Kaady family's attorneys.

A Clackamas County Grand Jury cleared Bergin and Willard of all wrongdoing last year and an internal investigation by the sheriff's office and the Sandy Police Department determined that they had fully complied with department policies and procedures. Both officers have returned to duty.

Sheriff Craig Roberts and Sandy Police Chief Harold Skelton defended the actions of the officers, saying that in unstable situations such as the Kaady case, sometimes split-second decisions must be made to protect law enforcement officers.

The family has hired Wyoming attorney Gerry Spence, who is known for handling high-profile cases. He represented Brandon Mayfield - the Portland-area man whose fingerprints were erroneously linked to the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

Spence is most famous for his work in the 1984 Karen Silkwood case, where he successfully argued that Silkwood's employer - a plutonium production plant - was responsible for exposing her to dangerous levels of radiation. A jury awarded Silkwood's estate $10.5 million.

He boasts on his Web site that he has never lost a criminal case, and hasn't lost a civil trial since 1969. Spence will reportedly handle the main arguments in the trial, which isn't likely to begin for at least a year, said Burrows, the local attorney representing Spence's firm.

The next step, she said, is to 'legally and technically serve the defendants with the paperwork we filed.' The fact-finding, 'discovery' process of building the case will begin in the next few months, and a trial will come after that.

'In a perfect world we'd be looking at a trial a year to 18 months from now,' Burrows said.

Skelton and City Manager Scott Lazenby said they have been told by their attorneys not to comment on the pending litigation.