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10th Circuit finds officer acted unreasonably by shooting Lakewood man in darkness

Lakewood police called a man six times asking him to come outside — yet they refused to show themselves when he peered out twice in the darkness. The man, fearing he was being set up for an attack, then grabbed his shotgun and exited.

That is when an officer shot him in the leg.

On Friday, the federal appeals court based in Denver reinstated the lawsuit of Eric St. George against the city of Lakewood and Agent Devon Trimmer after a lower court dismissed the case. A majority of the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit determined, under the totality of the circumstances during that night in Lakewood, Trimmer had not acted reasonably when she shot St. George.

“I’m just trying to figure out what were they doing,” said Judge Gregory A. Phillips of the officers during oral arguments. “It seems like their conduct was not typical police behavior and will end up in this exact same result more often than not, which is a citizen is shot when he didn’t need to be.”

Matthew Cron, a civil rights attorney with the Denver firm Rathod Mohamedbhai, said after reading the decision that what happened to St. George was a “textbook case of what constitutes terrible policing.”

“What was Mr. St. George supposed to do in this situation?” he asked. “Just trust that these people hiding in the shadows and were refusing to identify themselves are law enforcement who only have law abiding intentions? No rational person would have that trust.”

According to St. George’s federal lawsuit claiming excessive force, he arranged for a female escort to meet him at his Lakewood home on July 31, 2016. A payment dispute arose, requiring St. George to speak with her agency. Thirty minutes later, the escort reportedly said she was leaving, prompting another payment dispute.

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