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Police Brutality and Wrongful Death

We count on our local law enforcement officers to protect and defend us, but in their vigilance to do their jobs there has been increasing reports of police brutality against citizens. Whether they occur as the result of being stopped for a traffic infraction, in a public place, or when held in police custody, these incidents have resulted in serious injuries and deaths. Wrongful death claims concern fatal injuries that occur as the result of the reckless or negligent acts of another. The police enforce the law, but they are not above it. If they use a level of force beyond what a situation requires, they can be held legally liable for their actions.  

Cases Involving Police Brutality

Cases involving police brutality have made headlines throughout the nation over the past several years. While supporters claim they are only doing their jobs, human rights activists point to the excessive use of force as part of an ongoing trend. In regard to police brutality and deaths, the  U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)s reports the following:

  • During a six-year period from 2003-2009, nearly 5,000 people died during or shortly after being arrested or detained by law enforcement officials.
  • Of that number, roughly 60 percent were classified as homicides committed by the arresting officer or others directly involved with the case.

Unfortunately, more recent efforts by BJS to update these statistics have proved unsuccessful.  Relying on incident and data reports from law enforcement agencies, the BJS found that as many as half of all arrest and custody-related homicides ended up going unreported.

Wrongful Death Actions Against Police

A January 2017 Oregon Live report states that a federal lawsuit has been filed by the family of a 54-year-old Arizona man. Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a leader of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation, was shot in January of 2016 by Oregon State Police after allegedly racing away from a traffic stop. The troopers, who claimed he was reaching into his jacket for a gun when they fired, are alleged to have shot Finicum three times in the back. Both the state police and the FBI, who were also on the scene, are named in the lawsuit, which seeks $5 million in damages for the man’s widow and children.  

Under Section 30.020 of the Oregon Revised Statutes, the families of victims killed as the result of wrongful acts or omissions have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation, which includes:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Funeral expenses;
  • Future losses in companionship, earnings, and support;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Punitive damages meant to punish the at fault party.

Wrongful acts committed by police in these situations may include excessive use of force, while acts of omission include withholding medical care or treatment from a person obviously in need.  

We Can Help You Today

If you have a loved one who has been the victim of police brutality, contact the Johnston Law Firm today. While no amount of money can bring back your loved one, we may be able to help you recover financially, and most importantly, find justice.


Marc Johnston

Lead Attorney at Johnston Law Firm, P.C.

Based in downtown Portland, Marc A. Johnston is the owner and managing attorney of the award-winning, internationally-known personal injury law firm, Johnston Law Firm, P.C. Marc's career has been dedicated to representing the injured and individuals who have been treated unfairly by an insurance company. His focus on trial law creates the backbone of the Johnston Law Firm — a firm that is ready to go the distance in seeking justice for its clients.