Police Abuse

Federal Court Rules Connecticut Town Can't Claim Immunity for Deadly Botched SWAT Raid

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Gonzalo Guizan
family photo

More than six years ago, cops in Connecticut shot Gonzalo Guizan to death during a SWAT raid in which 21 police officers participated, based on a tip about a small amount of cocaine at his house. Guizan was shot six times by Michael Sweeney, a police officer in Monroe Township.  In March 2009 the attorney general of Connecticut exonerated the officers, largely based on their own testimony.

More than five years later, the lawsuits are still working its way through the legal system. In 2012 the five cities involved, represented by the same lawyer as Sweeney, tried to block the family's lawsuit from moving forward. Last year, the Guizan family settled with the police departments involved for $3.5 million. While the cities insisted police were not responsible for their actions, the family's attorney maintained the settlement meant otherwise.

This week, a federal court ruled the police departments did not enjoy immunity in the litigation surrounding the constitutional rights of the homeowner, whose guest Guizan was. Via the Connecticut Post:

A federal appeals court has ruled the police departments of Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Darien and Wilton cannot use a shield of immunity to protect them from millions of dollars in civil rights claims arising from a 2008 tactical-team raid that killed a Norwalk man and injured an Easton homeowner.

In a 51-page decision, 10 months after it heard arguments in the case, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for a jury to decide whether the police departments violated Ronald Terebesi's constitutional rights when a heavily armed team smashed down his door, tossed stun grenades into his home and fatally shot his house guest, 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan,

The police chief in Easton, who ordered the raid, is able to maintain immunity for the decision to call in the SWAT team but not anything that happened afterward.

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  1. This is how change will happen.

    1. Until the jury shows them damn federal judges how not to stray.

  2. I think the title has one too many contractions.

    1. So long as there’s no retraction, I’m content with this story.

  3. I’m a little unclear here. Does this open the police officers up to personal liability, or is it just another way of saying additional taxpayers will be mugged to pay for their conduct?

    1. I can’t tell either. I wish they would link to the decision. Just because the journalists are too stupid to read and understand it doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t.

      1. Link to Second Circuit’s opinion http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de…..67_opn.pdf

    2. Yes.

      But in seriousness, the decision means the latter.

      The cops fuck up, the taxpayers pay up.

    3. another way of saying additional taxpayers will be mugged to pay for their conduct?

      Nah. Same taxpayers. They just get to pay more. Totally different.

  4. R. Balko cited in the pleading

  5. While the cities insisted police were not responsible for their actions, the family’s attorney maintained the settlement meant otherwise.

    The family’s attorney would be correct. A settlement is nothing more than a quiet admission of guilt.

    1. Not necessarily, not in the jungle that has become our court system. In this case it is clear that the police behaved like terrorists but there are plenty of cases where suits are routinely settled because settlement costs less than successfully defending oneself against a nuisance lawsuit. OTH $3.5 million is quite a nuisance if you get what I’m saying.

  6. team but not anything that happened afterward.

    I see what you did there.

  7. “That dude looks just like Dennis.”

  8. Ya know, I could see some sort of protection for certain people in government. A cop or judge or a DA could be flooded with nuisance suits by everyone they deal with. And that would affect the way they do their jobs…..oh wait. What I meant to say was I do want them held personally responsible for the job they do, just like everyone else in the world. You can always buy a “malpractice” policy, just like doctors (and nurses) do.

    How can this immunity concept do anything but create perverse incentives.

  9. I’m confused. Was the case settled, or is it on appeal? It can’t be both. Maybe some of the departments settled out, and some didn’t? Maybe the departments settled, but the cops are still in the lawsuit?

    SOMEBODY TELL ME, DAMMIT!

    1. There are two cases; the one filed by the family of the deceased has settled while the one filed by the guy who house got SWATTED will now proceed.

  10. Hopefully this suite and others like it will help us to claw back our country from the black-booted thugs who are terrorizing it.

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