A federal judge in Connecticut has ruled that Stamford police were justified in shooting a man in 2016 who waved what turned out to be a BB gun at them.
The plaintiffs had argued qualified immunity for the two officers that shot 25-year-old Dylan Pape was inappropriate, and that the officers shot him without any justification.
In his Nov. 29 ruling declaring summary judgment in favor of the department and dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton said the plaintiffs had not proved there was excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
At issue was a call Pape, who was depressed and possibly suicidal, made to police on March 21, 2016. Several officers repeatedly ordered Pape to put down his weapon during the hourlong confrontation, Eginton wrote. At one point, Pape began walking, gun in hand, toward Lt. Christopher Baker. Again, Baker yelled for him to put the weapon down.
When Pape refused to surrender, police released a K-9 unit, which grasped at Pape’s leg, Eginton wrote. As the dog latched onto his leg, Pape raised his right arm, pointing the gun in the direction of the officers. Baker and Sgt. Steven Perrotta fired three shots at Pape, who was struck and killed. The city of Stamford, Baker and Perrotta were defendants in a May 2017 lawsuit filed by the family.
The family, as Eginton noted in his ruling, argued qualified immunity was not appropriate since Pape was in the process of being subdued by the dog, Pape had not raised his pistol to a point that its barrel was parallel to the ground, and Pape had previously made similar movements.
Eginton wrote that the plaintiffs did not show the officers’ actions were unlawful, nor identify a case with similar circumstances that found a Fourth Amendment violation.
New Haven attorney John Williams, who represents the Pape family, said the family will let him know soon whether they want to appeal.
“My view is that the evidence supported a conclusion contrary to what the judge ruled,” Williams said Tuesday. “We believe the dog had him under control at the time the shots were fired. For that reason, we believe, there was no justification for using deadly force.”
Neither Baker, Perrotta nor Stamford Police Chief Jonathan Fontneau responded to a request for comment Tuesday. Stamford attorney Barbara Coughlan also did not respond to a request for comment.