Ninth Circuit ruling says questions about use of deadly force should be presented to a jury

The family of an 18-year-old Tigard man shot to death five years ago during an early morning confrontation with sheriff's deputies may get their day in court after a federal appeals court ruled Friday that the case should go to trial.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court's decision in the September 2006 death of Lukus Glenn, who died in a hail of bullets after Washington County sheriff's deputies and Tigard police officers tried to get him to surrender following a fight at his parents' home.

• Click here to read the appeals court decision in the Glenn case.

Lukus Glenn's family sued the law enforcement officers Mikhail Gerba and Tim Mateski in mid-August 2008 in Oregon's U.S. District Court, claiming they violated Glenn's rights when they shot him. A federal judge ruled in June 2010 that the two officers acted reasonably and did not violate his civil rights, granting summary judgment for the deputies and the county.

In a Nov. 4 opinion, however, Circuit Judges Raymond C. Fisher, Ronald M. Gould and Richard A. Paez wrote that they believe there were enough questions about if the use of deadly force in the case to warrant presenting the case to a jury.

'There are material questions of fact about Lukus' and the officers' actions that preclude a conclusion that the officers' rapid resort to deadly force was reasonable as a matter of law,' wrote Fisher in the court opinion. 'Again, the disputed facts and inferences could support a verdict for either party.'

An attorney representing the Glenn family said they were 'pleased with the court of appeals decision.'

'We're looking forward to presenting the facts to a jury,' said Larry Peterson, who represented the family in the original case.

A reasonable response?

At about 3 a.m. on Sept. 15, 2006, Glenn was shot and killed in his parents' driveway by Washington County sheriff's deputies after his mother Hope Glenn called 9-1-1 for help with her distraught and intoxicated son. After shooting Glenn with a 'less-lethal' beanbag shotgun, the deputies fatally shot Lukus Glenn eight times when he apparently tried to get back into his family's house.

In Friday's opinion, the judges reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case back to U.S. District Court.

'Even if the jury determines that the use of 'less-lethal' force was justifiable, however, the question still remains whether escalating so quickly to deadly force was warranted,' Fisher wrote.

One question the judges believe a jury should try to answer is what caused Lukus' movement after beanbag rounds from a deputy's shotgun struck him.

'Even assuming, as the district court concluded, that deadly force was a reasonable response to Lukus' movement toward the house, a jury could find that the beanbag shots provoked Lukus' movement and thereby precipitated the use of lethal force,' Fisher wrote.

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