Eau Claire seeks dismissal of officer-involved shooting lawsuit
Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)
Mar. 16—EAU CLAIRE — The city of Eau Claire is seeking the dismissal of a civil lawsuit filed by a man who was unarmed when a police officer shot him in 2015.
Written by attorneys hired by the city's insurer, Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance, the motion for summary judgement was filed Monday with the U.S. District Court of Western Wisconsin.
The attorneys wrote there are insufficient facts to prove Tyler Holte's rights were violated or that Officer Hunter Braatz's conduct was against the law.
The motion states that police officers were advised to use caution when approaching Holte for an arrest warrant on April 1, 2015, due to reports he was armed, under the influence of drugs and suicidal. Police had also seen him driving recklessly earlier that day — speeding and ignoring stop signs. When officers located Holte hiding on the steep embankment behind VFW Post 305, 1300 Starr Ave., they gave numerous commands for him to put his hands up, which he ignored.
"It is undisputed that Holte kept his hands on his lap at this time (near an area where firearms are commonly carried and immediately accessible) and refused repeated orders to show his hands," Waukesha-based attorneys Remzy Bitar and Matteo Reginato wrote in their motion.
In a deposition also filed Monday with the court, Holte stated that he heard officers' commands and knew putting his hands up was the right thing to do, but he was too scared to move in that moment.
"I was frozen up because I had all the rifles pointed at me," he said in the deposition taken in June.
In addition to Holte's statements, depositions from police officers involved in the incident — including Braatz — were also filed this week with the court.
Braatz, who was positioned downhill from Holte and without safe cover, said the man had concealed his right hand in his sweatshirt, leading the officer to believe he could be holding onto a weapon. Braatz then said in a December deposition that Holte made jerking motions with his right arm and turned toward officers, which prompted him to fire his police-issued semiautomatic rifle.
Braatz shot Holte twice — once in the left leg and once in his left arm.
Police rendered first aid to Holte until he was transported to a local hospital for treatment of his wounds.
No weapon was found on or around Holte. He was never charged for his actions on that day.
Holte, who was 25 at the time of the shooting and is 31 now, said he's suffered nerve damage in his left leg and has pain when walking or standing for extended periods of time, according to his deposition. His left arm has limited range of motion and is weaker than his right arm. Also following the shooting, Holte said that he's had increased anxiety and depression.
Holte's attorney, Jeff Scott Olson of Madison, said it is routine for defendants in civil rights cases to file requests for summary judgements before trial dates.
"We certainly expected to receive this motion," he said.
Olson added that he will file a brief in opposition to the city's effort to get the case dismissed. The court has a deadline of April 5 for that filing.
Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker had previously set a schedule of upcoming dates for the lawsuit to proceed either to a settlement or trail.
Holte and the city have until July 2 to submit confidential letters to the court with terms for a settlement or opt for a jury trail that would start on Aug. 16.
Holte filed his lawsuit against the city and Braatz in February 2020, stating that the officer used excessive force, violating his civil rights in the 2015 shooting.
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