Boca Raton Sued After Police Shoot and Kill FAU Student

Jul. 27th, 2015   /   , , ,

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Fatal encounters between civilians and police officers have been receiving a lot of attention as of late. All across the country, it seems, individuals are finding themselves in stand-offs with law enforcement officers – and continually winding up on the losing side.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember who can be held liable in unjustified fatal shootings by police officers. Often times, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, it’s the city responsible for training the police officers that can be held responsible for their actions. A civil case in Boca Raton, Florida, is shedding light on this fact. In the case, the mother of a 20-year-old Florida Atlantic University (FAU) student who was shot dead by Boca police in 2013 is suing the City of Boca Raton, and just two months ago, the case made national headlines when it was moved from state court to federal court.

The lawsuit, filed by the mother of the deceased student (who was a rugby player at FAU), alleges that her son was in the midst of a “psychotic break” just prior to the encounter with police, which took place in March of 2013. The psychotic behavior displayed by the student could perhaps have been linked to tainted narcotics; marijuana metabolites were found in his system during the autopsy. Additionally, case investigators found small pieces of a hallucinogen called 251-NBOME, which is similar to LSD, in the student’s pants pocket, according to a report released by the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office.

Apparently, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, during the incident, the student was running through the streets. After putting his hands on a woman while on Northwest 20th Street, he said he wanted to die, and then he opened the door of a Comcast truck, which was, at the time, stopped at a traffic light. He also tried to remove the driver from the vehicle. Then, the student who has been described as a “gentle giant” jumped onto the hood of a cab and, when the driver emerged, punched the driver in the face, hopped into the driver’s seat, and drove away.

Within a matter of minutes, the student had left the cab and was running through the streets again. When police (who have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury) arrived, as they argue, the student charged at them with his hands in fists; they tasered the student and, when he didn’t react, they shot him twice in the chest, killing him, near the intersection of Military Trail and Spanish River Boulevard.

In light of the psychotic state that the student was in at the time of death, the lawsuit argues that the city is at fault in that it failed to adequately train its police officers in “arrest procedures and dealing with emotionally escalated anxious individuals suffering a psychotic break.” Still, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, despite the claims against the city, attorneys hired to represent the city had argued that the case actually belonged in federal court (in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, specifically), because most of the lawsuit’s claims deal with civil rights and various other Constitutional issues, all of which fall under the umbrella of federal – as opposed to state – law.

This case highlights the tragic nature of many police-civilian interactions and the need for better understanding, on the part of the police, of the communities in which they patrol. Law enforcement officers need better training and must learn how to deal with people going through clearly psychotic breaks, as this student surely was based on his actions prior to the fatal encounter.

If you have any questions about this or any other wrongful death issue, or if you or a loved one has been injured or wronged by the negligence or recklessness of another, please contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green to schedule a free consultation by calling 561-266-9191 or by e-mailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com. We look forward to assisting you. 

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