Civil rights case to proceed against police officer
A federal judge allowed a civil rights case to proceed Wednesday against a Framingham police officer who in 2011 shot and killed an unarmed man who was lying facedown on his kitchen floor.
US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV said the estate of Eurie Stamps Sr. could proceed on two counts against Officer Paul K. Duncan, on allegations that he used excessive force in violation of Stamps’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Saylor found that Duncan was not shielded from the suit by qualified immunity protecting public employees from liability for actions performed as part of their official duties.
Duncan accidentally shot Stamps in the face during a drug raid at Stamps’s apartment in Framingham on Jan. 5, 2011, according to court filings.
Duncan was part of a SWAT team executing a search warrant that was obtained based on a report that Stamps’s stepson and others were selling crack cocaine from the apartment, the judge said in a memorandum issued Wednesday.
Stamps, 68, was a retired MBTA maintenance worker who had no criminal record and was not suspected of any crime, nor did he “do anything or say anything to suggest that he was a threat to the police or anyone else, or to suggest that he was not cooperating,” Saylor said. The SWAT team was told specifically that the retiree “posed no known threat to the police during the execution of the warrant,” according to a deposition quoted by Saylor.
Saylor granted summary judgments in favor of Duncan on several counts, and in two counts ruled in favor of the Town of Framingham, named as the officer’s co-defendant, but a wrongful death count against the town remains.
The judge’s decision comes at a time of heightened attention to police killings of unarmed black men, following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and others.
Duncan was not charged in the Framingham case after a 2011 investigation by the Middlesex district attorney’s office and State Police determined that he had lost his balance and fallen, causing him to accidentally fire his weapon.
“While falling, Officer Duncan removed his left hand from his rifle, which was pointing down towards the ground, and put his left arm out to try and catch himself. As he did so, he heard a shot,” then-Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. said at the time. Leone said Duncan summoned medical assistance as soon as he realized he had shot Stamps.