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Walworth County appealing federal judge's ruling in fatal shooting by deputy

By Andrea Anderson
August 15, 2014

MILWAUKEE—Lawyers for Walworth County and two sheriff's deputies involved in a 2012 fatal shooting are appealing a federal judge's decision to not dismiss a lawsuit against the county and one of the deputies.

Three lawyers from Crivello Carlson law firm, Milwaukee, are representing the county and deputies Wayne Blanchard and Christopher Such. A town of Lyons mother is suing the three, claiming excessive force resulted in her son's death.

Blanchard shot and killed Nancy Brown's son, 22-year-old John Brown, on May 5, 2012.

The lawsuit filed May 8, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee accuses Blanchard of using excessive force in the shooting.

The suit also accuses the county of failing to properly train Blanchard and Such “in the appropriate use of force” and how to respond to suicide calls. It also accuses Such of not preventing the shooting.

On Jan. 31, the attorneys filed a motion for a summary judgment, asking that the lawsuit be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Adelman granted Such's request but declined to dismiss the others from the lawsuit in a decision filed July 17.

The defense Wednesday filed notice of intent to appeal in the United State Court of Appeals.

Blanchard and Such responded to Browns' home May 5, 2012, after Nancy Brown reported John was suicidal.

When John Brown approached the deputies with a knife in his bedroom, authorities said, Blanchard shot Brown twice, killing him.

Descriptions from the deputies and Nancy Brown about the events and how the situation escalated are different. Adelman cited that among other reasons why he declined to dismiss Blanchard from the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims John Brown was standing still when Blanchard shot him at least once in the neck, according to Adelman's decision.

Such was standing behind Blanchard, and Nancy Brown was sitting on the sofa in the living room and listening, according to court documents.

“Whether Blanchard reasonably perceived that Brown was threatening the deputies' safety by raising the knife and advancing on them is a question for the jury to resolve,” Adelman wrote.

A “reasonable jury” could find Blanchard “unreasonably created the encounter that led to the use of force” because the deputy knew Brown was drinking, suicidal, bipolar, had a knife and “could not have harmed anyone other than himself” because he was alone in the bedroom, Adelman wrote.

The defense contends one of the reasons to dismiss the lawsuit is that “the use of a deadly force was objectively reasonable as a matter of law.”

In July 2012, then-District Attorney Phillip Koss wrote a letter to the state Division of Criminal Investigation saying the shooting was justified as self-defense.

Adelman dismissed Such from the lawsuit, finding the evidence doesn't prove Such knew Blanchard would shoot John Brown.

The county's was not dismissed from the lawsuit because a “reasonable jury” could find the county's failure to train deputies how to respond to suicidal subjects resulted in John Brown's death, Adelman wrote.

“Had Blanchard received some training on strategies for approaching suicidal persons … he might not have unnecessarily rushed into Brown's room with his gun drawn and unreasonably precipitated a deadly confrontation with Brown,” Adelman wrote.

The defense contends there isn't municipal liability “because the Walworth County Sheriff's Department did not have a policy, practice or custom that caused" John Brown's death.