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Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune, Published August 03 2012

Father sues over son’s shooting by Duluth police

The father of a 17-year-old Duluth boy who was shot and killed by a police officer after attacking a squad car with a baseball bat is suing the city alleging that its negligence led to the boy’s death.

Anthony Carl is bringing the civil lawsuit on behalf of his late son Joseph “Joey” Carl, 17, who was shot and killed near his Norton Park home on Aug. 5, 2010.

The suit names the city of Duluth as defendant and has been served on the city, but not yet filed with the court. Jeffrey Keast, the officer who shot Carl, is not named in the lawsuit.

“The basis of the claim is that the Police Department, leading up to the incident itself, mishandled the circumstance,” said Duluth attorney Robert Kaner, who is representing Carl. “They had been provided information concerning the deceased and sent a sole police officer out to the grounds knowing that the boy was in an extreme situation. They received a call from his father describing his various conducts and so on and we don’t think police handled the situation in the correct way.”

The city has 20 days to respond to the suit, which asks for more than $50,000 in damages.

Duluth police Chief Gordon Ramsay was reached at his home Thursday night for comment.

“Everyone agrees this is a tragedy. However, video of the transport home showed a caring, compassionate officer who had a good rapport with a calm young man,” Ramsay said. “No one could have predicted an assault on this officer’s life like what happened. As stated by a thorough independent investigation, there was no wrongdoing and I stand behind the officer’s and department’s actions.”

Immediately after the shooting, the case was turned over to the Scott County Attorney’s Office for review to determine whether deadly force was justified.

That office said Keast was justified in using deadly force as Carl violently attacked his squad car with a baseball bat as the officer sat behind the wheel.

Keast told investigators that he ticketed Carl for underage consumption that night, then gave the boy a ride home after a breath test indicated that the teenager was legally drunk. The officer said Carl was cooperative throughout his interactions with him before he was released to his father.

Keast told investigators that before leaving Carl’s Norton Park home that night, he walked over to the couch where the teenager was sitting, shook his hand, patted him on the shoulder and told him it would be OK.

But things didn’t turn out that way. Minutes later, Keast shot and killed the teenager.

A police video of the incident showed the juvenile striking Keast’s squad car with 10 swings of the bat, shattering the windshield and breaking out the driver’s-side window where the officer was belted into his seat. Keast backed up 210 feet trying to get away from the bat attack when he sideswiped a parked vehicle and came to an abrupt stop.

Witnesses said they heard Carl yelling, “Come on, you pigs. … Come on, bring it on (expletive). I’ll take all you (expletive) on and put every one of you out of your misery.”

The bat shattered the driver’s-side window and just missed Keast’s head, a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension report indicated. Keast told investigators he believed Carl was trying to kill him. The officer had his gun drawn as Carl swung the bat. On the video Keast can be heard yelling, “Put it down! Put it down!” Then there’s a pop.

Keast fired one shot from his Smith & Wesson Military and Police .40-caliber handgun, striking Carl under his left arm pit. Keast told investigators that Carl still had the bat in one hand while grabbing his chest with the other hand. The officer twice told the teenager to drop the bat. He said Carl dropped the bat, staggered and fell to the ground.

The entire altercation lasted 27 seconds. Keast immediately requested an ambulance and provided first aid and CPR to Carl. The teenager died at the scene.

In a five-page report, Scott County Attorney Pat Ciliberto wrote that the bullet entry wound was in an area that would have been exposed if a right-handed batter had the bat in a cocked position ready to swing again through the open window.

Toxicology tests indicated that Carl had a blood-alcohol content of 0.115 percent and a urine drug screen tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance found in the cannabis plant. Anthony Carl couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.