Federal judge rules for Salt Lake County in use of force case
A Salt Lake County man shot in the arm when he attempted to drive away from police during a 2007 traffic stop has lost his bid to hold Salt Lake County responsible for the unjustified use of force.
U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer on Tuesday ruled in favor of Salt Lake County's request for summary judgment, saying James Blair had not shown his constitutional rights were violated because the county failed to uphold policies against use of excessive force.
Blair was a passenger in a Dodge Durango pulled over by sheriff's deputies looking for a stolen SUV on Jan. 16, 2007. After the driver stepped out of the car, Blair slid over to the driver's seat, started the car and took off. Deputies fired at the vehicle as he drove away.
Blair brought his civil lawsuit after the District Attorney's internal investigation found the shooting was unjustified but declined to prosecute the officers involved.
Salt Lake County argued there was no evidence its policies, training, or supervision of deputies resulted in the excessive force used against Blair, and Nuffer agreed.
The single instance involving Blair was "not sufficient to demonstrate a persistent, widespread pattern of disregarding violations of county policy necessary to support" a claim against the county, Nuffer said in his decision.
The judge also said that Blair's attempt to gather records about 48 officer-involved shootings during former Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller's term in office "comes far too late" in the legal proceedings and was unlikely to yield evidence to support his claim, since Miller had only been in office 15 days when the shooting occurred.
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