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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Victimized by Crooks and Cops

     David Sturdivant, a 64-year-old ex-Marine (Purple Heart/Vietnam) was doing okay in Atlanta, Georgia. He lived alone in a two-story house, and worked in his own engine repair shop attached to his dwelling. Mr. Sturdivant had recently been the victim of neighborhood burglars who had broken into his shop and swiped his HAM radio, various electronic items, a couple of riding mowers, and his tools. Things had gotten worse when thieves stole his two antique Thunderbirds.

     After awakening from a nap at one oclock in the afternoon on April 8, 2011, Mr. Sturdivant looked out his second-story window and saw a pickup owned by Dennis Alexander, its tailgate open, parked near a riding mower in the shop for repair. To Mr. Sturdivant, it looked like Mr. Alexander, a man with a criminal history of burglary and theft, was about to steal the mower. David Sturdivant stepped out onto his balcony and yelled, "Get off my property and stop stealing my stuff!" When Alexander mocked the property owner, Sturdivant entered his house and returned with a commercial grade M-14 rifle. From the balcony he fired one bullet into the ground to frighten Alexander off the property.

     Close by, Atlanta police officers working with a television crew filming a segment for the reality TV show "Bait Car," heard the shot. In less than two minutes they were on the scene shouting at Sturdivant to drop his rifle. Without taking the time to fully comprehend the situation, three officers fired fourteen shots at Mr. Sturdivant. One of the bullets tore into his stomach. Mr. Sturdivant had not shot at the officers, and had not pointed his rifle at them.

     A week after the shooting, hospital personnel discharged Mr. Sturdivant. He rolled out of the hospital in a wheelchair less one a kidney and missing several inches of his colon. Police officers immediately took him into custody and hauled him off to the Fulton County Jail in his wheelchair. The district attorney charged Sturdivant with four counts of aggravated assault for pointing his gun at the police officers. He also stood accused of aggravated assault for shooting at the suspected thief, and for possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime. If convicted of all charges, and given the maximum sentence, Mr. Sturdivant faced 105 years in prison.

     While Mr. Sturdivant recovered from his bullet wound in the jail's hospital ward, looters cleaned out his house and business then burned the dwelling and shop to the ground.

     At a preliminary hearing on October 27, 2011, the suspect turned down the district attorney's offer of a probated sentence in return for a misdemeanor plea. Claiming total innocence, Mr. Sturdivant rejected the plea bargain.

     On November 11, 2011, a judge tossed out the prosecutor's case against Mr. Sturdivant. After serving seven months in the county slammer, Mr. Sturdivant was free. But he had nowhere to go except to the local VA hospital. Mr. Sturdivant lost his house, his business, his household belongings, his antique cars, his tools, his kidney, and a piece of his colon. The man had no family, poor health, and no future.

     Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed. 

2 comments:

  1. I have a question, dont the police need a good enough reason to open fire on anyone? Also can the man sue the police for shooting him?

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  2. In my opinion, the short answer to both of your questions is "yes." The slightly longer answer is, "it depends." There are rules for when the police can fire on someone; the police will naturally argue that they reasonably thought they and/or others were in danger of being shot.

    Mr. Sturdivant could sue the police, but generally the police have 'partial immunity,' meaning that you normally have to go beyond proving negligence to something worse (like actively bad behavior on the part of the police). I would guess that some kind of settlement with no admission of wrongdoing on the part of the police will be forthcoming.

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