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Monday, April 9, 2012

Police Cleared of Violating Civil Rights of Wounded Man

Police Cleared of Violating Civil Rights of Wounded Man
The New York Law Journal by Brendan Pierson - April 9, 2012

A First Department panel has dismissed a suit brought against the city by a relative of a Bronx man who died after being shot in a fight outside a movie theater. The plaintiff alleges that police violated the man's civil rights when they ordered his friends to lay him on the ground and wait for an ambulance instead of continuing to walk to a hospital. The April 5 ruling in Chavis v. City of New York, 21167/06, reversed a decision by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Patricia Anne Williams. The panel noted that the state does not have an affirmative obligation to aid a person, unless it has put itself in a special relationship with that person or has put that person in danger. Even assuming that one or both of those exceptions applied to Chavis, however, the suit should be dismissed because the police officers' conduct "does not shock the conscience," the panel wrote. "The police, in responding to a call of shots fired, came upon several individuals walking with an injured person," the panel wrote. "At that point, the police could not have known if Chavis's friends were good samaritans or the perpetrators of a crime. Nor would the officers have had any information to assess the truthfulness of the friends' claim that they were taking Chavis to the hospital. The officers also would not have been able to assess the potential medical risks of allowing Chavis and his friends to keep going, as opposed to laying the injured Chavis on the ground." The panel consisted of Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez and Justices David Friedman, Karla Moskowitz, Rolando Acosta and Rosalyn Richter.

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