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Framingham cop has to answer in court to family of innocent man he killed in a SWAT raid

A federal appeals court last week ordered a trial for a civil-rights lawsuit by the family of a 68-year-old man shot to death as he lay on his stomach on the floor, his arms above his head, in a 2011 SWAT raid he had nothing to do with.

Framingham Officer Paul Duncan, who fired the fatal shot, and the town of Framingham, argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because Eurie Stamps's death was an accident that happened while he was just doing his job.

But the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the reasons Duncan's gun went off were so egregious that a jury could find he was negligent and that that would override the "qualified immunity" he might otherwise have against a lawsuit. The court found that Duncan disregarded his training and department policy by aiming a semi-automatic rifle at Stamps's head with the safety off and his finger on the trigger even though Stamps - lying on the floor at the order of other officers - posed no threat.

[W]e think it close to self-evident that a jury could find as a matter of fact that Duncan's actions were not reasonable ...

The Framingham SWAT team burst into Stamps's apartment shortly after midnight on Jan. 5, 2011, in search of Stamps's stepson, whom they suspected of being a drug dealer; Stamps himself was never suspected of anything. They used a battering ram to knock down a door and threw a flash-bang grenade through the first-floor unit's kitchen window. After one officer ordered Stamps to the floor, other officers stepped over him in their rush to look for the son-in-law; Duncan was assigned to guard him.

The court asked:

We ask "whether the legal contours of the right in question were sufficiently clear that a reasonable officer would have understood that what he was doing violated the right," and then consider "whether in the particular factual context of the case, a reasonable officer would have understood that his conduct violated the right."

Yes, the court ruled.

The Middlesex County District Attorney's office ruled the shooting an accident and did not bring the case to a grand jury.

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PDF icon Complete ruling in the Duncan case63.99 KB

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Comments

It's pretty sad that we as a country can put a doctor in jail FOR MURDER based on irresponsible prescribing practices but a cop that puts a rifle to an innocent man's head and pulls the trigger is still on the force five years later.

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It's a little bit of an apples and oranges comparison.

A doctor who knowingly prescribes drugs to patients who are at risk is making a calculated decision well in advance of the patient's predictable death.

Someone who is a "trained" police officer handling a firearm should know better in the immediacy of the situation, but the excuse is always "oops!"

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Angry young men that were C students at best and are typically racist...go on to become cops.

If we don't raise the standards on what it takes to become a cop, murders like this are going to continue to happen.

You should see the clowns from my hometown that went on to become cops...can't believe this people carry guns.

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Require a college degree and increase the pay 20%-30%. Then maybe people like you who are so great could become cops and save us.

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increase pay and requirements in positions where it would be effective at raising the talent level, can the shitheads, put the bad ones in jail.

i dont care for most of what sobo posts but you arent doing yourself any favors when you say stuff like " Then maybe people like you who are so great could become cops and save us."

i dont need to be a proctologist to know when something smells like shit, and i dont need to be a supercop to know when one should be off the force.

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To see that sobophoney is one of the worst trolls on this site, and that he does not deserve a legit response to anything he posts, including today.

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people you disagree with on some or many things can feel the same way about another thing as you and its ok to agree with them on that without being spiteful

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trolling does not deserve any sort of legitimate response.

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The Quinn Bill gave officers with college degrees a raise in that range. It was defunded by Deval Patrick in 2009/2010.

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long enough that any sentient being could get a "college degree" from Anna Maria or Curry Colleges. Fortunately, the job market has forced people with three digit IQ's into law enforcement. The young recruits are actually pretty squared away people. Unfortunately, that's coming too late for this poor gentleman in Framingham who apparently encountered an ill-trained cowboy.

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This is not the first time that an innocent civilian has been accidentally killed or injured an it won't be the last. Certainly when police step beyond, or ignore policies and procedures and a civilian is injured - there should be consequences.

However I disagree with SoBo's position that simply raising the standards will fix these problems. The fact is that Police, like every other profession, has a range of professionalism, regard for other human lives and obeying the law. I've known wonderful policemen who were kind to the homeless, the addicted and the mentally ill and others who indeed fit SoBo's description.

The fact is that being a police officer is a difficult job with hours of working alone at an often tedious job 24/7 where you spend more time with people who commit crimes, sell drugs, traffic in teen age girls than most other professions in society.

Add to this that officers experience big surges adrenaline in certain situations. A distant relative of my wife, a RI police officer, was shot in the hand during a SWAT raid by another officer. I'm sure that police want to go home to their families at the end of every shift and at tje same time can easily imagine that it's too easy to be too quick on the trigger in adrenalin filled situations.

The solution has to involve training and good management.

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I have a law degree from a prestigious university, and excelled in school pretty much my entire life. I believe my education taught me to not stereotype people and has been very useful in my professional career as a Boston Cop.

I hope YOU learn to not stereotype people some day as well.

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and smug individual. Did growing up in your hometown cause this attitude? You already had it when you arrived in Boston? Do you ever talk with cops personally and tell them to their face your opinion of them, or only anonymously on the internet?

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he absolutely should stand trial.

And, responsible law abiding adults shouldn't allow drug dealers to live and use their home. You are asking for trouble, if not SWAT, than a home invasion by those looking to rob that dealer.

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And you know he knew the guy was a drug dealer how?

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Do you know what that means?

Cops don't get a "get out of murder free" card just for being on duty.

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Cops are already exempt from many laws in this state including well after they've retired. A sense of entitlement will continue as long as the legislature keeps creating carve outs in the law for LEOs while putting the boot down on everyday citizens. Police should not be above or exempt from the laws they enforce.

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Even if his stepson was El Chapo, Mr. Stamps DID NOT deserve extrajudicial execution.

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Communities want cops who practice community policing. Unfortunately certain police chiefs want tanks and other toys for police to play with. Kudos for Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans who believe in working with the community and don't believe their officers who do a superb job need automatic rifles in their police cars to intimidate the public.

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Absolutely disgusting.

"Qualified immunity" desperately needs a second look, considering the many cases across the country where innocent people are injured or killed under similar circumstances.

City taxpayers should not be responsible for these fuck-ups if they cannot purge incompetent/untrained police officers straight-out because of police union threats. The civil damages ought to come out of the union coffers.

As is always said with regard to shitty sociopathic big banks/companies--they will learn to behave when you hit them in the pocket.

And please spare me the whole "you don't want to impede officers from acting" shtick--any reasonable person on a jury will take circumstances into account. This was manslaughter at the very least.

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Just who is'them'?

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blue people.

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Do you have a problem with the concept of personal responsibility? That is--being responsible for your actions--and not having taxpayers cover your ass when you act like an incompetent moron.

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you need to take a chill pill, or did you reply to the wrong comment?

or more likely you just didnt get my joke at all

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Don't play coy.

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Any other charge for accidentally shooting an innocent old man in the head through reckless disregard of firearm safety would be absurd.

Charges should include not only Duncan's removal from police force, and jail time, but lifetime prohibition on him owning or using firearms.

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Yep, these are the ones we exempt from certain weapons laws cause we trust them to have a higher level of training and responsibility. They can carry pretty much anywhere in the U.S. under LEOSA. They can buy the firearms licensed civilians can't. Many only have to qualify with their service weapon yearly. And that's just police in general...this guy was on the SWAT team.

Duncan disregarded his training and department policy by aiming a semi-automatic rifle at Stamps's head with the safety off and his finger on the trigger even though Stamps - lying on the floor at the order of other officers - posed no threat.

Training, department policy, and the first friggin thing you're ever taught about safe handling of firearms. The gun didn't "go off"; he pulled the trigger, negligently.

You don't even need to hold him to the standards of a SWAT officer, or even an officer. He messed up in every conceivable way, no matter you you look at it.

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Not only should the officer who shot the man be charged, but also the seargant (or whomever) who organized the raid. To allow the use of flash grenades, and to storm into a house with assault rifles while there are other family members inside is completely wrong and shows utter carelessness. They really couldn't have just done survelliance on the step-son and waited until he left the house to arrest him and THEN get a warrant to search the house? All of the kick-door raids make absolutely no sense, and it seems like more times than not something bad happens, and in this case an innocent man was shot and killed by a police officer. These military-like tactics should be restricted to overseas warfare, not in our own cities and towns.

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Actually the military often has more restrictive Rules of Engagement than the police do and there's a lot wrong with that.

The 4th amendment seems to be meaningless.

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What are the economics of SWAT raids? Do officers get paid more if they participate in them? Do they generate a lot of overtime?

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One result is that the department gets to keep the military toys that the US government gave them for free. Some of those giveaway programs stipulate that 'surplus' equipment that is not deployed for a year is supposed to go back to the government. IDK if those stipulations are ever enforced, but they exist.

As for SWAT teams, they are increasingly regionalized into "Law Enforcement Councils" such as NEMLEC, which not too long ago tried to avoid accounting for its activities by saying it was "not a government agency." The theory was that it was a private entity that just happened to consist completely of active police officers. An ACLU lawsuit last year forced NEMLEC to disclose some details of its operations.

Crockford says of the 79 incidents NEMLEC provided reports, 21 involved executing drug-related search warrants. Of those, just five reports mention actual drug seizures.

Other news reports describe SWAT units being used for really trivial stuff like overdue student loans and an art gallery not having a permit to dance and serve wine. The police are getting out of control.

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You hit the nail on the head. This is all in the guise of protecting the citizens from big bad drugs. Meanwhile Rx drugs kill more than any illegal substance...

Making criminals out of addicts creates unnecessary violence among dealers, and by law enforcement (who could better spend their time solving crimes with actual victims).

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No one knows. It could be 50,000, it could be 80,000. One thing we do know is that a great number of them are completely unnecessary, and many of them are horribly botched resulting in innocent people being terrorized and sometimes killed, pets being killed and in untold property damage.

Reform can't come too soon.

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