A jury has cleared a New York Police Department sergeant who was sued by the family of a man he fatally shot in 2009 for allegedly violating his civil rights.
William Flores didn't use excessive force when he shot Mauricio Jaquez in the head after the knife-wielding suspect had fallen to the ground, the jury found Thursday.
Jaquez was shot five times in an April 12, 2009 standoff with police at his Bronx home. His family's lawyers claimed the final shot was excessive because the 35-year-old had dropped to the ground and no longer posed a threat to officers.
Testifying in the federal civil case this week in Manhattan, Flores said that he fired the final bullet because it looked like Jaquez was pushing himself to stand up. The sergeant delivered conflicting answers to questions about whether Jaquez was dangerous. At one point, Flores said the suspect was not a threat but moments later said that he feared for the safety of other police.
A city medical examiner said Jaquez could still have posed a threat after being shot four times.
On the stand, Jaquez's wife said she called 911 because she worried about her husband's erratic behavior that day. He had been drinking and using cocaine when he came at her with a knife and expressed paranoid thoughts that he expected to be killed, Ana Martinez testified. The call to authorities was motivated by her concern for his well-being rather than fear of him, the New York Daily News reported.
But Flores had told officers that he would kill his wife and their three children, according to a police department spokesman at the time of the shooting.
Inside the family's apartment, police tried subduing Jaquez by firing Tasers and rubber bullets at him, with no apparent effect. Then he allegedly lunged at a detective with a knife, causing Flores and another detective to open fire. After being shot five times, Jaquez was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.