CLEVELAND – Dorothy Chappell is still fighting for change in state and federal laws more than 16 years after the death of her 15-year-old grandson, Brandon McCloud, involving the Cleveland Police in the family’s eastern house.
McCloud was shot dead on September 1, 2005, in his bedroom by Cleveland detectives Philip Habeeb and John Kraynik, who were serving a search warrant and attempting to question McCloud about the armed robbery of a pizza delivery boy, when the fatal shots were fired.
After a four-year legal battle, the U.S. 6th Court of Appeals ruled that detectives acted reasonably and believed McCloud was a threat when officers reported McCloud had pounced on them with a steak knife.
The court ruled that the officers should not stand trial and face a civil lawsuit against them for civil rights violations, citing “qualified immunity,” a law that protects municipalities from civil suits.
Proponents of the law believe that without this liability protection, public officials and law enforcement officials would be exposed to futile prosecution and their actions would be constantly questioned in the justice system.
But Chappell, a growing number of civil rights groups and judges across the country disagree and believe that qualified immunity too often prevents officers who use excessive force from being held accountable and to stand trial by jury.
Chappell believes the law needs to be changed at state and federal levels.
“Really they say there’s nothing you can do about it, he’s dead, so what,” Chappell said. “The law must be changed.”
“The bullets started flying and I dodged my car and told them not to fire back here, I didn’t know they were killing Brandon. When they saw him, he was in a closet, that closet didn’t even have a door.
Family defense attorney Terry Gilbert agrees qualified immunity must be waived and said police will still have their day in court to properly defend themselves.
Qualified irrational immunity has really hampered the ability to seek justice against the police, ”Gilbert said. “And I think getting rid of it wouldn’t deprive the police of the right to defend themselves.
“We need to get Congress to act and we need to get the states to act. A lot of them are good police officers, but they know that if they run into a problem, they might be okay with it. “
Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer disagrees and believes that qualified immunity must be maintained to ensure city employees and police can maintain public safety without the continued threat frivolous lawsuits paid for with taxpayers’ money.
Follmer issued the following statement in response to our story:
“It is a shame in today’s society that a police officer is blamed for dealing with violent young people; and that he is open to future legal action; when in fact he is This is parental failures. When a police officer meets an abusive youth, it is usually not the first time the minor has been abusive; but unfortunately we officers are blamed. Police officers are not the problem in this. society, the problem begins at home.
Meanwhile, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would severely limit qualified immunity, was passed in the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.
At least 23 states have passed “significant” legislation on matters aimed at imposing accountability, standards and oversight on police, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The May 2021 report said Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Mexico made it easier for victims of civil rights violations to recover damages in state courts. The new laws created or expanded the state’s causes of action and limited immune defenses. Colorado and New Mexico have specifically limited qualified immunity.