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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:34 am

City answers suit over man slain by police

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

In their answer to a federal wrongful death lawsuit in connection with a police-action shooting, Fort Wayne officials argue police officers were acting in self-defense and defense of others when they shot and killed TaVontae Haney in April 2013.

In March, Rose Haney, the mother of 19-year-old TaVontae Haney, sued the city of Fort Wayne, officers John Drummer and Cameron Norris and a number of officers identified only as "John/Jane Does," according to court documents. 

In the lawsuit, she accuses the city and the officers of subjecting her son to "excessive and unreasonable force," negligence and battery, violating his constitutional right to be free from "unreasonable seizure," according to court documents.

TaVontae Haney was shot and killed by police on April 27, 2013. He was a passenger in an SUV pulled over by officers near Congress Avenue and Gaywood Drive.

According to police, TaVontae Haney fled from the vehicle as officers approached. Witnesses said he was carrying a handgun at the time. As officers gave chase, they ordered him to drop the gun. Witnesses said that not only did he not drop the gun, he proceeded to point it toward the officers, according to the prosecutor’s office. 

No charges were filed in connection with his death, declared justified by Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards as one of self-defense. Haney’s death was the 16th homicide of 2013, a record-setting year for homicides in Allen County and one that included four police-action shootings. 

Haney’s mother said in her lawsuit that he was unarmed when he was shot and posed no immediate threat to officers, according to court documents.

But in response to the lawsuit, Fort Wayne city attorneys said Haney was armed, and denied that he posed no "imminent threat of harm" to the officers.

She also argues her son was denied medical care, handcuffed and loaded into a police vehicle and then taken from the scene, according to court documents. 

The city admitted Haney was handcuffed after the shots were fired, according to court documents.

Police reports indicated TaVontae Haney died at the scene. At the time of his death, he had two outstanding warrants for misdemeanor invasion of privacy and contempt of court. 

In their response to Rose Haney’s claims, attorneys representing the city said TaVontae Haney incurred the risk and contributed to his own death, and that the officers acted in self-defense and in defense of others. 

The city’s attorneys also argue that they are immune from the federal law claims made in the complaint, as well as alleging the plaintiffs did not comply with provisions of Indiana’s Tort Claim Act, according to court documents.