Man wounded by officer files claim against bar and city
by Bob Glissmann
World-Herald News Service
The attorney for a man who was shot by an off-duty police officer outside an Omaha bar has filed a claim against the bar and the City of Omaha.
Attorney James Martin Davis said the officer, 14-year veteran Calvin Harper, wasn't justified in the use of force against his client, 20-year-old Armondo Butler.
"This cop shoots my guy, who's permanently crippled now, and (Butler) wasn't doing anything at all," Davis said.
The president of the Omaha police union said the police investigation into the incident should be allowed to take its course.
"These things are often complex," Union President Aaron Hanson said.
It all started when Armondo Butler and his brother, Adrien Butler, 28, were at Cheaters bar, 3929 Farnam St., on Saturday night.
Armondo Butler has said members of a family who hold a grudge against Adrien Butler confronted the brothers in the bar about 12:15 a.m. Sunday. Armondo Butler said he and his brother walked outside and hurried to an SUV to drive away.
A witness said she saw someone throw a bottle into a crowd outside the bar before getting into the SUV. In addition, a window of the bar was broken around the same time.
On Tuesday, Adrien Butler was booked at the Douglas County Jail on suspicion of criminal mischief. Police say he was responsible for breaking the bar's window.
As the brothers drove off, Armondo Butler said, he saw a police officer point a gun at his SUV and fire at least four shots. One shot hit Butler in the left leg, shattering his kneecap and forcing him to pull over a few blocks away.
Butler also sustained nerve and tendon damage in the shooting, Davis said.
Omaha City Attorney Paul Kratz, who wasn't commenting on the specifics of this case, said Tuesday that it's not clear-cut whether the city could be held liable for an off-duty officer's actions.
"If the off-duty officer is engaging in activity enforcing the laws, then there might be some city liability," Kratz said. "On the other hand, if he's protecting the property he's working for, there likely would not be any city liability.
"You have to look at the facts of the particular situation and make a decision based on that."
Hanson, the union president, said officers first must gain the police chief's permission before working anywhere off-duty and in uniform.
"A police officer working in uniform for an off-duty employer may have to instantaneously transition to police-officer mode, given the situation," Hanson said. "That's obviously the situation very similar to what happened here."
Under state law, he said, police officers cannot stand idly by when they perceive that a violent crime is occurring.
"These police officers have an obligation to try to protect the public," Hanson said.
Acting Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes said Monday that police must both protect the public and follow the rules that govern officers' use of their weapons. Harper has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation into the incident.
The other officer working off-duty at Cheaters was Randy Szemplenski, who was briefly placed on administrative duty.
Hayes said Tuesday that detectives have determined Harper fired seven shots: four into the SUV, one in a telephone pole, one that broke a window of a nearby apartment and another that can't be accounted for.
The investigation into the incident includes the department's homicide and internal affairs units.
Davis said he wants Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine to look into the shooting and, possibly, charge the officer. "No man is above the law," Davis said.
Kleine said Tuesday afternoon that his review of the matter was a given -- it's a normal part of the investigation into such incidents.
All of the above was copied from Clipper Haralds page located [here]