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August 22, 2014 / Priscilla Szeto

Man Suffering from Mental Breakdown Shot to Death by Police Officer

A Pennsylvania police officer is facing claims filed against him for having fatally shot a man inside his own home before the police obtained a mental health warrant.

On November 7, 2012, “an employee or agent of Community Counseling Services requested that a mental health commitment warrant be issued against” Brian Williams after he allegedly “threatened to kill his wife” during a counseling session. Police officers from Overfield Township, including police officer Mark Papi, subsequently went to William’s home despite not having the warrant yet at the time of their arrival.

When Williams refused to exit, the officers “did a number of things to further antagonize” Williams, who was suffering from a mental health breakdown at the time. The officers pepper-sprayed the Williams family dogs and also prevented Williams’ wife and mother from going inside the house, even though Williams said he would “come out as long as he got to talk to his wife and mother.” After finally expressing a willingness to come out, the officers, rather than wait for William’s peaceful exit, instead took out their shields and guns and entered through the front and basement doors. Williams was knocked down and shocked with taser guns; shortly thereafter Officer Papi, who was instructed to “stay outside, in the perimeter of the home,” charged into the home and shot Williams; Officer Papi was the “only officer who discharged his weapon,” and Williams’ cause of death was listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.”

On July 3, 2014, Judge Robert Mariani denied Papi’s Motion to dismiss the unreasonable seizure as well as assault and battery claims filed against him in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, arguing that he was entitled to qualified immunity under the Fourth Amendment. The opinion noted that the defendant Papi made a lot of “assertions of fact in support of his Motion that either involve gross generalizations or cannot reasonably be implied from the facts of the Complaint.” An example cited was defendant’s assertion that Williams was in a “dangerous state of mind, as revealed by the indisputable fact that police were at his residence to execute a mental health warrant . . . .” Judge Mariani rejected these assertions noting that, “it cannot be said that a passive individual with a mental health warrant against him is just as dangerous as an obstreperous one . . .the circumstances of William’s own death . . . cannot be generalized according to abstract notions of ‘danger’ . . . .”

In denying the motion, Judge Mariani concluded that there is “no reason to believe that qualified immunity exists as a matter of law.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of police misconduct, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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