A man shot by a Fircrest police officer three years ago has sued the city, contending officer Chris Roberts had no cause to open fire on him while responding to a call about a pair of possible car prowlers, one armed with a gun.
Manuel Urrieta’s attorneys, Derek Smith and James White, filed the lawsuit on his behalf April 17 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.
Urrieta seeks undisclosed monetary damages for physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma and alleged violations of his constitutional rights.
In his lawsuit, Urrieta contends Roberts “used unreasonable deadly force” that was “an intrusion onto his person without just cause, objectively unreasonable based on the totality of the circumstances and amounted to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s protected rights.”
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Ann Trivett is one of the attorneys defending Fircrest. On Friday, she said Roberts was pursing two men he thought might be committing a home-invasion robbery when he chased Urrieta and another man into a darkened apartment.
The two men ignored Roberts’ commands and “continued to move their hands around at their waistbands when he opened fire,” she said.
Urrieta and the other man were hit. Urrieta suffered wounds to his head and face but survived. The other man lived as well.
“Officer Roberts’ use of deadly force was reasonable and justified,” Trivett said.
The shooting, thought to be the first ever by a Fircrest police officer, occurred April 22, 2012.
Roberts and other law enforcement officers were dispatched the area of a pub in the 6500 block of 19th Street Southwest after someone called 911 to report two men breaking into cars nearby.
Two security guards told the officers that when confronted one of the alleged car prowlers pulled out a pistol and said, “I have something for you,” records filed in a criminal case state.
Roberts was looking for the prowlers when he came across Urrieta and another man outside a nearby apartment building. The officer told the men not to move, but instead they ran into Urrieta’s apartment, records show.
Roberts gave chase and kicked in the door of the apartment, which was dark inside.
The officer saw two figures near the back sliding-glass door, aimed his flashlight and gun at them and told them to halt and show their hands, criminal court records show. He opened fire when they didn’t comply, prosecutors said.
Authorities later found a handgun in the apartment, the records show.
Urrietta was charged with two counts of second-degree assault, first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm and vehicle prowling. All charges save the vehicle-prowling count were dismissed before trial.
Urietta went to trial on the vehicle-prowling charge and was acquitted, court records show.
“Defendant Roberts had no probable cause to believe that plaintiff Urrieta presented a danger to himself or others, and, as a consequence, the decision to shoot plaintiff Urrieta was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances,” Urrieta’s lawsuit states.