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Lawsuit filed in Brown shooting


Suit claims deputies denied Lyons man his rights



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June 04, 2013 | 03:35 PM
LYONS — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court, Milwaukee, in connection with the shooting last year of John Brown, 22, by a Walworth County Sheriff's deputy in the town of Lyons.

The complaint alleges Brown was denied his Constitutional rights as a citizen when he was shot and killed.

Nancy Brown, John Brown's mother, who is also listed as special administrator for her son's estate, was listed as the plaintiff.

Listed as defendants are deputies Wayne Blanchard and Christopher Such and Walworth County.

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Click Here to read the federal lawsuit

The fatal incident occurred during the early morning hours of May 5 at the home of Nancy and John Brown, 1463 Meadow Lane, in Country Estates Mobile Home Park, town of Lyons.

According to the official police report, Brown was shot while advancing on deputies Blanchard and Such with a knife.

After reviewing a state Department of Criminal Investigation report about the incident, the Walworth County District Attorney's Office ruled the shooting justifiable.Sheriff David Graves said he would not speak about the lawsuit.

"The DCI investigated and it was reviewed by the district attorney," Graves said on Monday.

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However, the lawsuit alleges that Blanchard fired his weapon immediately after kicking the door open a second time while Brown was "standing motionless" in the center of his room.

The court document also indicates that another sheriff's deputy, Joshua Adams, informed the two deputies on the scene that he would be arriving with "less than lethal equipment" to help handle the situation.

Accounts differ

In police accounts, Blanchard shot Brown twice after Brown approached him brandishing a knife.

In a brief telephone interview, Nancy Brown said her son never had a chance in his encounter with the deputies and that the report that he had advanced on the officers with a knife was untrue.

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Nancy Brown's 911 call was a call for help for her son, the complaint says. The mother and the authorities agree that Brown was a young man with emotional problems.

According to the complaint, when Nancy Brown made her 911 call to the sheriff's department, she reminded authorities that her son had a history of bipolar disorder, that he had a history of self-harm and that he was suicidal.

She also told authorities that there were no other weapons in her son's room except for the knife which he was using to cut himself. All of that information was reportedly passed on to deputies Blanchard and Such on their way to the Brown residence, the complaint says.

In an earlier interview, Nancy Brown said she tried to calm her son and stop him from cutting himself.

Brown had said she had called the sheriff's department for help with her son three times before. She said the deputies who arrived during those calls consoled her son. The shooting occurred after the deputy reportedly kicked open the door to Brown's bedroom a second time. The first time the door was kicked open, Brown reportedly slammed it shut again.

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According to the account of the confrontation in the complaint:

"Upon defendant Deputy Blanchard kicking in the bedroom door, John Brown stood up from the chair he was seated in and turned to face the doorway.

"Deputy Blanchard then aimed his service weapon at the person of John Brown.

"(Deputy) Such then arrived at the threshold to John Brown's bedroom and positioned himself immediately behind … Deputy Blanchard.

" … Blanchard then kicked the door to John Brown's bedroom with enough force for it to swing open once more.

" … Blanchard again aimed his service weapon directly at the person of John Brown.

" … Such then drew his Taser and aimed it at John Brown.

"John Brown remained in the center of the bedroom motionless in a standing position.

"Immediately after kicking open the door a second time and at approximately 12:17 a.m., … Blanchard fired two bullets from his service weapon at the person of John Brown."

Hit twice

Brown was struck once in the left side of the chest and once in the left side of the neck.

According to the complaint, Blanchard then handcuffed Brown, who was still alive but not moving.

Brown was taken to Lakeland Medical Center by ambulance, where he died of his injuries at about 1:15 a.m.

The complaint alleges that the Walworth County Sheriff's Office "failed to adequately supervise, discipline and train" their officers in the appropriate use of force.

It accuses Blanchard of using excessive force and that his conduct was "objectively unreasonable." It charges that his actions were taken "with malice and with reckless indifference to John Brown's Constitutional rights."

It also accuses Such of failing to intervene to prevent Blanchard from shooting Brown.

"Throughout the May 5, 2012 encounter with John Brown, … Such had a realistic opportunity to intervene and prevent deprivation of John Brown's Constitutional rights."

The complaint asks the court to award compensatory damages, including medical and funeral expenses, attorney's fees and punitive damages against Walworth County and the sheriff's department, and against Blanchard and Such individually. The complaint was entered by attorney Timothy S. Knurr of Schoone, Leuck, Kelley, Pitts & Knurr of Racine.

Attorney Rebecca Williams of Romanucci & Blandin LLC, a Chicago law firm that specializes in personal injury and wrongful death, said the Chicago firm often works with the Racine law firm in Wisconsin. She said the two law firms are working together on the case.

The court document is dated May 8. The complaint demands a trial by jury. Listed as an involuntary plaintiff, is the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services. The complaint also calls for the court to determine whether the debt owed by the estate of John Brown to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services should be transferred to the defendants.

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