Brian Babb was shot and killed by a Eugene police officer March 30, 2015.
Almost four years later, on March 28, a judge ruled that his family’s case against the police and the city of Eugene can move forward in the courts. A lawyer for the family says they welcome a jury trial.
Andrew M. Stroth of Chicago-based Action Law Injury Law Group says, “The Babb family appreciates and respects the court’s ruling. They want the case to go to trial and have a group of 12 jurors decide if Brian Babb was unconstitutionally shot and killed by the police.”
Babb, a 49-year-old military veteran with PTSD, was armed and feeling suicidal, according to court documents. He had fired his gun and told his therapist as much when he called her.
The therapist then called the Eugene Police Department, whose officers approached Babb’s house in an armored Bearcat vehicle
Stroth says, “The idea of sending a team of officers in a Bearcat when they know a military veteran is having a mental health breakdown doesn’t make sense on any level.” He notes that Babb served overseas in Afghanistan only to “be killed in the sanctity of his own home.”
Stroth specializes in police shootings and has cases across the country, including the case of Andrew Finch, a Wichita man who was shot by police after a false “swatting” call sent officers to his home.
Members of Babb’s family, including his two children Connor and Kaylee Babb, filed the $7.5-million suit, McGowan et al v. Stutesman et al, in March 2017.
In January of this year, a motion for summary judgment was heard before Judge Thomas Coffin in Oregon’s U.S. District Court.
In a motion for summary judgment the plaintiffs basically seek an early end to a lawsuit by arguing anyone looking at the facts and the law would rule in favor of the moving party.
Coffin ruled March 28 that the motion for summary judgment was granted in part and denied in part, allowing the case to move forward. Two former defendants, officers Matthew Grose and Nate Pieske, have been dismissed from the suit, the ruling says.
The primary case against the city and Officer Will Stutesman, who shot Babb, are intact, Stroth says.
An EPD spokesperson says the police department doesn’t have any comment at this time.
In his ruling, Coffin writes that “Officer Stutesman’s testimony and statements are of paramount importance and plaintiffs must be allowed the opportunity to challenge his testimony through cross-examination and other evidence at trial.”
The goal of the lawsuit, Stroth says, is not the money but making sure training procedures are in place and special care taken for veterans, and “making sure this doesn’t happen to another victim who doesn’t present a threat to the officers or others in the community.”
Babb’s sister Stephanie Babb is not a party in the case, but she has been an outspoken advocate on the topic of police shootings since Brian Babb was killed. She says her efforts on Brian’s Bill, legislation that would help veterans and people in a mental health crisis, will continue.
Stephanie Babb points to the “Memphis Model” of a Crisis Intervention Team, which seeks to reduce incidents of police use of force against those in a mental crisis.
She is also working on a project she called “Brian’s Action Brigade,” or BAB — Brian Avon Babb’s initials. She says BAB will help families negotiate the time period after a loved one has been shot by police, where they often do not know what to do or who to call.
She gives as an example her sister Ronda McGowan’s arrival at Brian’s home after the shooting. McGowan wasn’t told by police that there were crime scene services available to clean up the blood after the shooting, Babb says.
Instead, Stephanie Babb says, McGowan was “on her knees cleaning up my brother’s blood and where his dog’s paws had walked through it.”