Scottsdale has agreed to spend more money to defend against lawsuits brought by the families of two men shot by police in separate incidents in 2012 and 2008, bringing the total authorized to date to nearly $1.6 million.
This month, the City Council approved paying up to $75,000 in legal
fees for an appeal in the 2008 case of David Hulstedt, 35, who became a
paraplegic after two Scottsdale sergeants shot him in the back as he was
walking toward his house carrying his 2-year-old daughter, according to
The council also approved spending up to $350,000 in the Feb. 14,
2012, fatal shooting of John Loxas Jr., 50, who was holding his
7-month-old grandson when he was shot and killed by Officer James
The city has authorized more than $1 million total in legal fees for
the Hulstedt case and up to $515,000 in the Loxas case, according to
Mike Phillips, a Scottsdale spokesman.
Loxas was the seventh Scottsdale resident Peters had shot in the line
of duty since 2002. Six of the suspects died. Peters was granted a
disability retirement this year.
The families of Loxas and Hulstedt filed lawsuits seeking damages
against Scottsdale officials. Loxas’ family seeks $7.5 million from
Peters, the city, Police Chief Alan Rodbell and Detective Brian
McWilliams, according to documents prepared for the City Council.
Hulstedt’s family seeks $40 million from the city and 19 police officers and former employees, the documents said.
Both shootings were deemed justified by the Police Department’s
Deadly Force Review Board, according to records, as were Peters’ prior
shootings while on duty.
A federal judge disagreed with the review board in Hulstedt’s case,
finding that “reasonable” officers would not have fired at Hulstedt, who
had psychological issues, was unarmed, made no sudden movements and
held his daughter.
The judge further said the baby could have been hurt. In fact, the
baby did fall 6 feet to the ground and suffered a minor facial injury,
according to the ruling. The judge also noted that police did not warn
Hulstedt before they fired.
After three of four police-fired bullets struck Hulstedt, police
handcuffed and dragged him facedown 400 feet to paramedics, the judge
Hulstedt was suffering from anxiety and paranoia when he called
Scottsdale police the day he was shot and demanded that U.S. Homeland
Security Secretary Janet Napolitano come to his house, according to the
Police ascertained he was having psychological difficulties, but they
were concerned about the safety of Hulstedt’s daughter because Hulstedt
threatened to “pile-drive” her, according to court documents.
The judge ruled that the officers are not immune from damages stemming from the suit.
“Considering ‘the totality of the facts and circumstances’ in the
particular case, no reasonable officer could have believed that shooting
David without warning, while he calmly walked back towards his house
with (his daughter) over his head, was a proper means of protecting
(her) safety,” the judge said in his ruling.
“Neither Sgt. Richard Slavin nor Sgt. James Dorer warned (Hulstedt)
that they would shoot him if he did not comply with their commands, and
both of them shot him in the back as he was walking away from them and
towards the house.”
The council Nov. 13 approved up to $75,000 with the law firm of
Osborn Maledon to appeal the judge’s findings to the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals. The partners of the firm, which has experience with
appellate litigation in excessive-force cases, will make $370 an hour,
according to City Council documents.
It is unclear how much money the city has spent on prior legal action
in either the Hulstedt case or Loxas case or in other lawsuits against
retired Officer Peters.
The council approved up to $250,000 in attorney’s fees and up to
$100,000 in other litigation fees to the law firm of Struck, Wieneke
& Love of Chandler to represent Peters in the Loxas shooting. Lead
attorney Kathe Wieneke will make $195 an hour, according to City Council
documents. Separate counsel was retained for the city and other
Loxas’ neighbors had called police to his house Feb. 14, 2012, after
he waved a gun at them, according to police reports. He was walking back
to his house holding his grandson when he was shot, according to court
The lawsuit filed on his family’s behalf by the American Civil
Liberties Union claims that Scottsdale police failed to adequately
investigate Peters’ prior shootings and that he should not have been
armed and on the force the day Loxas was killed.