The Sandusky County Sheriff's Office will have to answer for their use of a flashbang grenade in the death of a Fremont man.
Last week, federal Judge Jack Zouhary, of the U.S. Northern District Court, in Toledo, put Sandusky County and the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office on notice they will have to face a jury and explain their use of a flashbang grenade in the July 11, 2010, death of 26-year-old Bryan Jones.
Zouhary denied a county request that would have prevented a jury from determining whether Jones' civil rights were violated when deputies came within six feet of Jones, who was asleep or passed out on a couch in his family's living room, lit the grenade and then shot and killed a startled Jones when he was awakened by the sound and light created by the explosion.
“Because a jury could conclude that defendants' use of a flashbang device was excessive force, and could further find that a reasonable officer would have known that use of a flashbang device under the circumstances constituted excessive force, defendants are not entitled, as a matter of law, to qualified immunity,” Zouhary wrote in his decision.
Attorneys for the county cited previous cases where the use of a flashbang was upheld by courts.
Zouhary dismissed each one.
"Jones had not fired a gun at neighbors or officers. Nor had he refused to surrender to police. Jones was instead asleep for some time and police, at best, made one failed attempt to talk to him; Jones made no threatening gestures with the shotgun he held on his lap during that time; and his mom, against whom Jones made the earlier verbal threat, was not nearby," Zouhary wrote.
"A jury could find that Jones posed no immediate risk to anyone until (at the earliest) after the TRT deployed the flash-bang. Moreover, a jury could conclude that a reasonable officer would know that if the officer awakened a sleeping suspect with a flashbang device, the explosion would disorient the suspect."
It was a victory for the Jones family.
“They will have to face a jury on this one,” said Dennis Murray Sr., of Murray & Murray law firm, who is representing the Jones family.
The jury trail is scheduled to get underway Sept. 8.
Sheriff Kyle Overmyer ordered the Tactical Response Team (TRT) to storm the house about 90 minutes after the first deputy arrived and 20 minutes after he arrived on the scene. Overmyer later told investigators he was concerned Jones needed medical help when it appeared he stopped moving.
There was no one else in the home when deputies Mario and Jose Calvillo, who are brothers, quietly led the four-man team into the home.
All told, Mario fired five shots from his .40-caliber handgun and Jose fired nine shots from an M16A2 rifle. Jones was ultimately shot five times.
The Jones family has argued Jose Calvillo should never have been on the TRT. He was removed from road patrol and re-assigned to the jail so supervisors could monitor him earlier in 2010 following allegations Calvillo had stalked his ex-girlfriend and her family.
He surrendered his gun while he was reassigned to the jail. He was, however, allowed to remain on the special team.
The Calvillos and two other deputies opened fire when Jones was startled awake by the flashbang grenade. He died instantly.