Olsman, Mueller & James

Article from website of Olsman, Mueller & James  

(Settlement amount a matter of public record but withheld here.) 

 Click here to follow link to the Olsman, Mueller and James website

$XM Settlement For Police Shooting – Shots Fired at Bipolar Victim Armed With Steak Knife

Defendant Officers Todd Wood and Arnold Terrell shot and killed plaintiff’s decedent Christopher Drypen inside the lower level of his home on June 22, 2003, while Drypen’s father, mother and sister stood outside.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department responded to the Drypen home after Deborah Drypen called for medical assistance to take Drypen to the hospital because he was acting in an erratic manner.  When defendants Wood and Terrell arrived, they were both informed that Drypen suffered from bipolar disorder.  In addition, they were informed that there were no firearms in the house and that Drypen may have a short steak knife in his possession.  They were specifically told that conversing with Drypen only made it worse, and that a special response team equipped with non-lethal weapons, including a taser, was on the way to the house.

Despite this knowledge, the defendants positioned themselves inside the Drypen home at the top of the 13-step stairway leading from the walkout level of the home to the main floor.  Plaintiff’s counsel said defendant Wood attempted to engage Drypen by calling to him, “Chris, come here so I can talk to you.”  Moreover, plaintiff’s counsel said that while discussing the fact that the officers at the lower level entrance had mace, defendant Terrell remarked, “I don’t fight knives with mace.”  Also, counsel said, defendant Terrell responded to Drypen by saying “F*** him,” defendant Terrell also indicated, “If he comes up here, he’s dead,” and that, “We have to do what we have to do.  It’s his choice.”

One minute after defendant Wood called to Drypen a second time, “Christopher, come to the stairs,” the officers fired a total of 18 shots at Drypen while he was standing at the bottom of the stairway.

Plaintiff’s counsel said the key to winning was using the physical evidence to show that the defendants’ version of the shooting was inconsistent with the physical facts.

According to plaintiff’s counsel, the blood spatter and bullet evidence showed conclusively that Drypen was not on the stairs at the time he was shot nor was defendant Wood positioned where he had claimed.

This was corroborated by defendant Oakland County’s crime scene reconstruction expert who admitted there was no physical evidence to support the defendant’s claim that Drypen was on the stairs charging at them with a knife when they began shooting.

Morevoer, the plaintiffs were also able to show that the defendants’ major defenses –namely “suicide by cop” and “blame the parents” – were unsubstantiated by the known research on bipolar disorder.

Plaintiff’s counsel noted that even the defendants’ experts admitted this was not a case of “suicide by cop.”

Type of action:  Civil Rights violation 1983

Type of Injury:  Wrongful death

Name of case:  Drypen v. Wood, et al.

Court/case no./date: U.S. District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division; #03-74151; Feb. 3, 2005

Name of judge:  Avern Cohn

Settlement amount: $X million

Attorneys for the plaintiff:  Jules Olsman and Wolfgang Mueller

Attorney for the defendant:  Withheld

Name/City of most helpful experts: David Woodford, blood spatter, crime scene reconstruction, Marysville; Stephen Nowicki, blood spatter, crime secne reconstruction, Marysville; Dr. Barbara Sachs, bipolar disorder, Boston:  D.P. Van Blaricom, police practices, Bellevue, Wash; Werner U. Spitz, M.D., forensic pathology, St. Clair Shores

Insurance Carrier(s): Self-insured

Article from Michigan Lawyers Weekly http://www.milawyersweekly.com