A wrongful death suit filed on behalf of the family of a Williams man shot and killed in the Williams Police Department entranceway is one step closer to closure.
On Dec. 14, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District court ruling that Officer Chee Burnsides acted reasonably when he shot and killed Roger Heath Jensen on Feb. 5, 2006.
According to the court's memorandum, filed Dec. 14, the district court made the appropriate decision in denying the claim that Jensen's constitutional rights were violated by the use of excessive force.
"The undisputed facts reflect that Jensen violently attacked Officer Burnsides," wrote the three-judge panel. "Because officer Burnsides' response to Jensen's attack was objectively reasonable, there was no constitutional violation."
Stephen Glazer, the Flagstaff-based attorney for the Jensen family, said he is unable to comment on either case at this time.
The Jensen family does have the ability to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but of the 10,000 cases filed with the court each year, only about 100 are heard, according to information from the U.S. Supreme Court Web site.
Burnsides shot and killed Jensen after arresting Jensen on a possible DUI charge. While Burnsides was processing Jensen in the police station sally port, Jensen began a struggle and managed to get his cuffed hands in front of his body. He had managed to nearly pry away Burnsides' Taser before the shooting happened.
In late February 2006, Coconino County Attorney Terence C. Hance determined that Burnsides believed he was facing serious injury or death in the attack and acted reasonably and responded with several less lethal means before using his duty weapon. Hance cleared Burnsides of any wrongdoing.
Jensen, who was on intensive probation after serving a prison term for a felony DUI conviction, had a history of suicidal thoughts.
Along with the filing of a complaint in federal court, the Jensen family also filed suit in Coconino County Superior Court.
Based on the April 21, 2009, complaint, the Jensen family is arguing wrongful death based on the similar issues in the federal court system. The family is asking for $7 million in damages.
Attorneys for the City of Williams and Burnsides have also filed a motion seeking dismissal of the case. Judge Mark Moran has yet to make a ruling.
If Moran denies the Jensen's claim of wrongful death, the Jensen family attorney is able to appeal the judge's decision to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or email@example.com .