Spokane Cleared in Death of Man With Mental Illness

By Tom Bacon

A panel of federal appeals court judges has cleared the City and the County of Spokane and their police officers in the death of a mentally-ill man six years ago.
28-year old Joshua Levy held officers at bay for about 20 hours as he stood on the Monroe Street bridge over the Spokane River in 2007, but finally, after he was shocked by a taser and rushed by officers, he jumped from the span to his death. Levy's family sued the city and county and several police officers for four-point-seven million dollars.

In their federal suit, Levy's family contended that the police never bothered to consult with a psychiatrist recommended by mental health practitioners.

When Levy finally left the ledge on which he had perched for hours, a Spokane police officer used a Taser on him, and other officers ran forward to try and grab him. That's when the young man jumped. Levy's father was watching.

The suit charged that the city and county officers used constitutionally excessive force, even when they knew that Levy was seriously mentally disturbed.

In federal trial court in Spokane, the government entities and the individual officers were granted a summary judgment on grounds they had qualified immunity which protected them against claims they violated a statutory or constitutional right.

In reviewing the case on Monday, three 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges upheld the lower court, ruling that the officers believed their conduct was lawful, and that no higher-ranking policy maker had approved of the decision to rush and try to immobilize the distressed man.
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