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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Baltimore officers for ’14 shooting

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday filed by a man shot by Baltimore police in 2014, finding the man brought his claims improperly under federal civil rights law.

Michael Johansen sued four officers and former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts in 2015. He alleged officers violated state and federal law when they shot him while he was unarmed and fleeing the scene of a burglary.

Johansen’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, battery and conspiracy. He also claimed Batts was liable as a supervisor for negligent hiring and training of the officers.

U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III Thursday granted motions to dismiss filed last year by Batts and three of the officers because Johansen’s federal causes of action should have been brought under the Fourth Amendment.

Russell said the Supreme Court has held that the Civil Rights Act of 1871, which allows plaintiffs to sue police in federal court for depriving them of constitutional rights, requires claims of excessive force be brought under the Fourth Amendment as a seizure of a free citizen.

Because Johansen did not do so, his “claim fails as a matter of law,” Russell wrote. Other federal claims alleging violations of Johansen’s rights also fail because the underlying Civil Rights Act claim was not brought properly.

The remaining state law claims were dismissed because the court no longer had original jurisdiction once Russell dismissed the federal causes of action. He declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims and dismissed them as well.

Nathaniel K. Risch, Johansen’s attorney, said Monday he and his client are evaluating their options, which include appealing Russell’s ruling or re-filing the lawsuit in state court with the state law claims.

“We’re certainly filing something,” said Risch, of Mann & Risch LLC in Towson.

Johansen was shot on Dec. 28, 2014, after officers responded to a silent alarm from a convenience store in the early morning, saw him running from the building and claimed he reached toward his waistband after being ordered to show his hands.

Johansen was injured when one officer, Wesley Cagle, shot him in the groin. Cagle was later convicted of first-degree assault and using a firearm in committing a felony or crime of violence in 2016. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

City Solicitor Andre M. Davis was not available for comment.

The case is Michael Johansen v. Officer Wesley P. Cagle et al., 1:17-cv-03792.

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