Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2017

Court dismisses lawsuit involving Fairfield officers

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Aug 17, 2017

A federal court recently ruled to dismiss all claims against the city of Fairfield and its police officers regarding a law suit filed June 18, 2016.

“We filed a motion for summary judgment, which essentially means that we asked the court to dismiss all claims on the merits ... that was granted,” said attorney David Schrock of Scheldrup Blades Law Firm of Cedar Rapids, which represented the city of Fairfield.

Fairfield resident Denise DaVolt, the mother of a minor who rode as a passenger inside a vehicle that police officers Kathryn Blumhagen and Sgt. David Wall fired shots at after a high-speed chase that ended south of Birmingham in Van Buren County in June of 2015, filed the law suit against the city.

The vehicle was driven by 19-year-old Dakota Ray Murray of Keosauqua, who was arrested at the time of the incident, and charged with eluding law enforcement.

DaVolt filed a lawsuit in June 2016 on behalf of her daughter.

According to the filed case document, DaVolt alleged that her daughter’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Blumhagen and Wall fired into the car in which she was a passenger. She argued that her daughter had no means by which she could threaten or harm the officers, and that their use of deadly force constituted unreasonable seizure.

However, the court found the officers’ use of force “objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”

According to the case file, based on a review of the defendants’ dashcam videos, the following events occurred within the 14 seconds between Murray’s car coming to a temporary stop on the gravel road, and the officers firing at the car after it ended up in a roadside ditch. Anticipating a foot chase, Wall got out of his car and drew his gun. While Wall was running and shouting commands to stop and get out of the car, the driver put the car into reverse and backed into the ditch. Blumhagen exited her car and drew her gun, and followed Wall toward Murray’s car. Both officers yelled for the car’s occupants to stop and show their hands. Instead, the car advanced forward out of the ditch in the direction of Wall, who was standing in front of the car. It came within 15-feet of Wall. Both officers observed the car advancing toward Wall and according to the document, “heard” the car accelerate toward him. As it moved closer, Wall fired once or twice, aiming at the middle of the car’s windshield, and officer Blumhagen fired four shots at the car while running to Wall’s left.

“The ruling by the court was what we had anticipated,” Schrock said, adding that the vehicle became a weapon. “We felt it was appropriate, and that officers Wall and Blumhagen were completely justified defending [Wall].”

The final pretrial conference was initially set for Oct. 26, and would have been followed by the trial scheduled Nov. 6.

“Those are all canceled, and the case will not be proceeding to trial,” Schrok said.

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