SALT LAKE CITY – A federal appeals court has been asked to revive a lawsuit filed by the family of a man shot dead by a Salt Lake City police officer.
In recent arguments at the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver, attorneys for Patrick Harmon Sr.’s estate urged a three-judge panel to reinstate the trial which was overturned by a federal judge in the United States. ‘Utah.
The judge “wrongly determined that Mr. Harmon posed a serious threat,” argued Harmon family attorney Nicholas Lutz.
Harmony was arrested by police while cycling on State Street in 2017. Officers discovered Harmon had a warrant for his arrest. While handcuffed, Harmon broke free. What happened next is the subject of the family’s trial.
Police claimed Harmon had a knife and threatened officers when he was shot several times. The Harmon family maintains that while a weapon was found nearby, body camera footage did not show him holding it.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill found shooting legally justified. The shooting was among those cited in Black Lives Matter’s protests against police brutality last year.
The Harmon family sued the Salt Lake City Police and Officer Clinton Fox, alleging racial bias (Harmon is black and the officer is white), excessive force and a violation of Harmon’s constitutional rights by the police. A judge dismissed part of the lawsuit, ruling that what the officers had done was “legally, objectively reasonable”, but also allowing certain allegations of racial prejudice to go forward in state court.
The Harmon family asked the 10th Circuit Court to restart the trial and have it decided by a jury.
“The inevitable inference from these allegations is that Mr. Harmon did not pose a serious and immediate threat to the officers at the time he was killed,” Lutz told the judges.
The police body camera video was a key part of the arguments, with Lutz and Katherine Nichol, the Salt Lake City lawyer, drawing the judges’ attention to it.
“When I saw the video they never ordered him to drop anything and the only audible statement was the officer shouting ‘I’m going to shoot you’,” Judge Keith Kelly said at the ‘hearing.
“That’s right, your honor. It was the only order, as you may call it, that was given to Mr. Harmon,” Lutz replied.
But the Salt Lake City attorney argued that judges should consider what a “reasonable officer” would do in the circumstances.
âOfficer Fox was faced with circumstances in which, during an arrest for a second degree felony, Mr. Harmon begged officers to let him go,â Nichol said. “He then freed himself while in handcuffs, he pushed an officer to the ground as he was running away, then he stopped running and turned back to the officers with what appeared to be reasonable and was, in fact, a knife. “
Throughout the 30 or so minutes of argument, the judges appeared somewhat skeptical of some of Salt Lake City’s arguments.
“Even if he pushed it, I grant you. Three officers, one guy on a bike. They fight. They don’t tell him to drop anything. I couldn’t see anything in it. the video. and he says I’m going to shoot you, and he does. Is this standard operating procedure in Salt Lake? “asked Judge Kelly.
“No, your honor,” replied Nichol. “The Court’s investigation covers all of the circumstances, as the Court is well aware.”
The 10th circuit court took the case under advisement without delay for the time when it could rule.