Wrongful death lawsuit pursued over courthouse shooting

What can you do when your loved one was killed but the police and prosecutors refuse to call it a crime?

You may be able to get justice through a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death claim won’t impose criminal penalties on the person who caused your loved one’s death, but it may hold them financially accountable.

The family of a 16-year-old shooting victim is taking that tactic by filing a wrongful death claim against the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and Franklin County itself. The unarmed teen was killed by a sheriff’s deputy inside the Franklin County Courthouse after an altercation broke out.

The county coroner called the death a homicide. The Franklin County Sheriff closed the case without bringing charges against the sheriff.

The boy’s parents allege that an independent investigator should have been put in charge of the inquiry, rather than allowing the sheriff’s office to investigate one of their own. In addition, the suit says that the sheriff’s department is responsible for its officer’s actions because it hasn’t properly trained its officers to handle volatile situations involving minors with less-than-lethal force.

The focus on the failures of the sheriff’s department to teach its officers how to defuse a situation with emotional teens and avoid a shooting indicates that the family hopes to prevent others from going through anything similar.

Wrongful death lawsuits play out in civil court, where the standard of proof is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required to convict someone in criminal court. If your loved one was killed, and you feel like the criminal legal system has failed you, it might be time to discuss other legal options.