Judge allows wrongful death lawsuit against Orange County Sheriff's Office

Judge says jury to decide responsibility of 11 deputies who shot, killed man

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The family of a suspected car thief who was shot 22 times by Orange County deputies will be allowed to sue the officers for wrongful death.

A federal judge has ruled that a jury should ultimately decide the responsibility of the 11 Orange County deputies who were involved in the shooting death of Torrey Breedlove.

The deputies believed they were immune from being sued in court because they were  government employees who were doing their job. Deputies shot 137 bullets into the apartment complex taking down Breedlove, 27, three years ago.

A grand jury cleared the deputies of wrongdoing, as did the sheriff, who said his officers had no choice but to open fire on Breedlove because they said he was trying to ram officers with a truck.

The federal judge said evidence suggests "(a deputy) rammed into Breedlove, not the other way around," and that "a reasonable jury could conclude that (Breedlove's SUV) was either in reverse or stationary."

The family of Breedlove said they believe the agency must pay for using excessive force and killing Breedlove.

The judge said a jury "might question why 137 shots were required to secure an unarmed suspect."

Although the judge acknowledged that police officers have a difficult job and must make split-second decisions to defend themselves, he says the deputies don't deserve immunity from the lawsuit.

"The conduct at issue here is more akin to an execution than an attempt to arrest an unarmed suspect," the judge said.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and one of the deputies' supervisors have been dropped as defendants in the case.

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