Dispatcher won't face lawsuit in deadly shooting

Dispatcher won't face lawsuit in deadly shooting
Posted at 9:57 AM, Jun 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 20:10:19-04

The 911 dispatcher who told the victim of a road rage incident to drive back to the scene of the confrontation will not face a civil lawsuit for the man's death.

The decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the victim's family was announced by the United States Court of Appeals
Tenth Circuit Tuesday.

On April 1, 2012, Denver 911 operator Juan Rodriguez received a call from passengers in a vehicle reporting that people in another vehicle threw bottles at their car, breaking a window. The passengers had left the area.

Rodriguez told Jimma Reat and his family to return to West 29th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard to wait for Denver police.

(PHOTO: Shooting victim Jimmy Reat)

"I told them I don't really want to go back on that side because that's where everything happened," said Reat's cousin, Ran Pal, who was driving the car and who was also calling 911.

"I said, 'I'm here at home, this is where I feel safe so please send somebody.' He said, 'No. If you don't go back that way, we won't be able to send anybody, and it's going to be your loss. We won't be able to file a police report."

Pal returned to West 29th and Sheridan with three family members and waited for police. As Pal, Reat and others were standing outside the parked car, the red Jeep drove by and opened fire on them.

Reat was shot in the back, police said. He died later at the hospital.

Early on in the investigation, Denver 911 admitted Rodriguez did not follow protocol.

Rodriguez was placed on leave immediately after the incident and was fired in May 2012.

MORE | 911 dispatcher fired after sending victim back to scene road rage incident

The executive director of Denver 911, Carl Simpson, said the dispatcher should have worked with Wheat Ridge police and had them meet Reat.

"The call transpired very quickly and it just got sideways very quickly and I will tell you we didn't do our best work that night, Simpson said.

In violent incidents people typically are not asked to return to the Denver area because police can travel to meet them outside the city, said Ernie Franssen, the Denver 911 operations manager.

Reat's family filed a lawsuit against the City of Denver and Rodriguez in September 2012, claiming Rodriguez violated Reat's constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment by putting him in danger.

The 14th Amendment declares that no state can “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

The lawsuit also claimed Rodriguez used his governmental authority to subject Reat to the "callous shooting." 

MORE | Lawsuit filed against Denver in death of Jimmy Reat over 911 call

Rodriguez moved to have the lawsuit against him dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity.

On Tuesday, the court issued its decision.

"We conclude the law was not clearly established such that a reasonable 911 operator would have known his conduct violated Reat’s constitutional rights," the court stated.

MORE | Read the full court ruling 

Reat was a refugee from Sudan.