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Judge rules partially in favor of defense’s motion in deadly force lawsuit

Jake Sheeler recovering from a Sept. 25, 2020 officer-involved shooting. | Courtesy photo
POCATELLO — A federal judge has ruled partially in favor of a motion filed by the defendants in a lawsuit alleging unnecessary use of deadly force by three Pocatello police officers.
U.S. District Court Judge Amanda Brailsford ruled in favor of a summary judgment for the City of Pocatello and Police Chief Roger Schei, according to court documents. Brailsford, however, ruled against the same motion for fellow defendants, officers Jeffrey Eldridge, Bridget McArthur and Marisa Saldana — meaning the case will advance against the trio of officers.
RELATED | Defense motions for summary judgement in lawsuit over 2020 Pocatello officer-involved shooting
Jake Sheeler, who was being pursued by multiple law enforcement agencies, was paralyzed when he was shot five times by Eldridge, McArthur and Saldana on Sept. 25, 2020.
He was wanted for a home robbery, during which he was reported to have taken to firearms — one of which he used to threaten the homeowner.
Officers found him several hours after the robbery, near the Outback Golf Park driving range. According to police reports, Sheeler did not follow commands to get on the ground with his hands in the air, instead assuming a “shooting stance” and reaching for a gun.
RELATED | Investigation finds police justified in shooting that left Pocatello man paralyzed
That was when officers shot him several time before immediately rendering medical aid and discovering Sheeler to be unarmed.
Sheeler claims in the lawsuit that he informed the officers he was unarmed, and was walking backwards toward the officers as he was commanded. But, he added, there was some confusion as the three officers were issuing separate and contradicting commands.
RELATED | Pocatello man paralyzed in officer-involved shooting files lawsuit
According to the motion order from Brailsford, filed June 12, Schei’s role, as alleged in the lawsuit — protecting the officers and allowing them time to coordinate their stories before being interviewed — was not properly supported. The judge also found no proof to support the claim that Schei of the City of Pocatello should have known unnecessary deadly force would have been used by the officers.
Because of those findings, Brailsford ordered a summary judgement in favor of both defendants, effectively dismissing them from fault in the case.
However, the allegations made by Sheeler against the individual officers is properly supported, the judge ruled.
“Although Sheeler was a felon, a fugitive, and reasonably believed to be armed, he was also walking backwards with hands raised in an apparent move to surrender,” the order states in part. … “Accordingly, Officers Eldridge, McArthur, and Saldana are not entitled to qualified immunity at this stage of the proceedings.”
The main question the case has come to at this point, according to the 26-page order, is whether Sheeler was in fact following commands with his arms raised, or moving toward a shooting stance.
Despite the involved officers recording the interaction with body cams, the recordings are made in such poor quality Sheeler’s action cannot clearly be deciphered, documents show. Neither can his announcement, which he alleges, was that he was unarmed.

A screenshot of the body cam footage included in the lawsuit. | Courtesy photo
Brailsford’s recent order also rules on a motion from the plaintiff — Sheeler — to disqualify an expert witness whom the defense plans to use as audio-video authentication.
The judge will allow the expert — Durand Begault — to testify as an audio engineering expert, using audio-video enhancements to verify speech and warning signals from the body cam footage, the order says.
The case has yet to be scheduled for trial.
The post Judge rules partially in favor of defense’s motion in deadly force lawsuit appeared first on East Idaho News.

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