In a 41-page memorandum, federal Middle District Judge, John E. Jones, III, denied the motion of Gregory T. Hadfield, James A. Miller, and Springettsbury Township, to dismiss the $8 million civil rights lawsuit resulting from the December 29, 2012, officer involved fatal shooting of Todd W. Shultz. The shooting took place outside of Kmart, 1094 Haines Road, during an attempt to arrest Shultz for retail theft.
Shultz produced a common table knife and a pair of scissors, and walked toward Hadfield and Miller, at which time they fired four bullets into the front of his body. In the federal lawsuit filed by national civil rights attorney, Devon M. Jacob, of Jacob Litigation, it is alleged that upon being impacted by the four bullets – which did not cause fatal injuries – Shultz stopped walking and turned away from Hadfield and Miller. Jacob claims that when Shultz did not comply with repeated directions to “drop it,” Hadfield and Miller fired eleven (11) more bullets into Shultz’s side and back, and continued firing, even after Shultz dropped the knife. In denying the motion to dismiss the excessive force claim, Judge Jones stated, “We find the allegation plausible that Shultz was not ‘advancing’ toward Kmart in a threatening manner but was in a state of shock and stumbling sideways toward the Kmart entrance.”
For over five minutes, Township officers left Shultz to bleed to death on the pavement until the ambulance arrived. In denying the motion to dismiss the denial of medical care claim, Judge Jones stated, “we find the allegations that no officer checked for a pulse for at least two minutes and that no Township police officers, including Defendants Hadfield and Miller, provided any emergency care on the scene after Shultz had been shot numerous times to plausibly show either intentional refusal to provide such care or delay for non-medical reasons.”
In refusing to dismiss former police chief Thomas H. Hyers from the case, Judge Jones stated,
“we find that Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that Defendant Hyers had knowledge of and acquiesced in Defendant Hadfield and Millers’ alleged excessive use of force. Taking the facts as alleged as true, Defendant Hyers knew that Defendant Hadfield had a prior pattern of aggressive and possibly unlawful behavior that warranted additional training or supervision. The two previous excessive force cases put Hyers on notice that at least Hadfield needed additional training on use of force. Although those cases settled prior to a decision on the merits, the expensive settlements do indicate, making all inferences in Plaintiffs’ favor as we must, that the Defendant Township in those cases was not confident in the legal justification for Defendant Hadfield’s actions. Plaintiffs allege that even though Defendant Hyers conducted an internal affairs investigation after the filing of those two previous cases, Defendant Hadfield was never disciplined or retrained. We conclude that these allegations of Defendant Hyer’s actions can reasonably be construed as a message of approval of Defendant Hadfield’s conduct.”
Likewise, in denying Springettsbury Township’s motion to dismiss, Judge Jones stated, “the facts as alleged adequately show that the Defendant Township was on notice of previous incidents allegedly involving excessive force, failed to take appropriate action such as disciplining or retraining the officers on use of force, and that Shultz’s death resulted.”
“I have long predicted this result,” said Jacob, when asked about the Court’s decision. “Judge Jones is an experienced judge who understands clearly established law,” commented Jacob. “It is unfortunate that the Defendants continue to waste the public’s money defending its bad conduct. The only way to close this dark chapter in the Township’s history, and to ever earn the public’s trust, is to settle this case and to institute much needed reforms.”
While denying the Township Defendants’ motions to dismiss, the Court granted the County’s motion, noting, “Plaintiffs have alleged no facts showing that Defendant Kearney possessed any manner of supervisory authority over Township police officers, nor have Plaintiffs offered any case law in support of this position.” When asked about the dismissal of the claims against the County, Jacob stated, “the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Act of 1850, 71 P.S. §732-206(a), provides, “‘the district attorney shall be the chief law enforcement officer for the county in which he is elected.’ The fact that Kearney never exercised his authority to supervise should not be a defense. However, the Shultz family does not desire to waste any more time litigating an issue that can be remedied at the ballot box. Instead, the Shultz family will focus on prosecuting the claims against the Township Defendants.”