Judge rules insufficient evidence in $12 million Silver Spring wrongful death lawsuit -- Gazette.Net







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A judge has ruled that there is insufficient evidence to support the plaintiff’s claims in a $12 million lawsuit charging a Montgomery County police officer with wrongful death in a shooting last year.

Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Julie S. Solt issued a summary judgment May 2 in favor of Officer Christopher Jordan, the last defendant in the lawsuit brought in March 2011 by the family of 26-year-old Emmanuel Okutuga, who Jordan shot and killed after a confrontation outside the City Place Mall in Silver Spring on Feb. 19, 2011.

Charges of negligence on the part of County Executive Isiah Leggett and police Chief J. Thomas Manger were previously dismissed from the case, said Montgomery County Attorney Paul Leonard, who defended the county.

"This resolves all of the remaining issues in the case," Leonard said of the judge’s ruling.

Okutuga was carrying an ice pick and ignored repeated demands to drop the weapon, according to the testimony of mall security guards who first confronted him for causing a disturbance earlier that night.

Brian K. McDaniel, an attorney for the Okutuga family, did not return multiple calls for comment as of Friday morning. McDaniel argued that Jordan acted recklessly and used excessive force when he shot Okutuga, who McDaniel said was backing away from Jordan during the entire encounter.

A commuter student at Bowie State University, Okutuga had been suspended from the university effective Feb. 15, 2011, just four days before he was shot. Okutuga was also the subject of two calls handled by the University of Maryland Police Department in College Park on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17, according to police.

Less than a month before the shooting, Okutuga's sister, Deborah Okutuga, filed a protective order in Prince George’s County District Court barring Emmanuel from her home in the 6700 block of New Hampshire Avenue in Hyattsville. The order would have expired in February 2012.

"[He] threatened to harm my child and myself," Deborah wrote in the protective order. "He is a paranoid schizophrenic who has been off his medicine for over 6 months; he broke furniture, was cussing and threatening to harm me."

The lawsuit was originally filed on behalf of Olubunmi Comfort Oludipe, Okutuga’s mother. Also listed in the suit were Deborah Okutuga, Abiodun Okutuga and Godson Okutuga. None of the family members listed in the lawsuit could be reached for comment as of Friday.

About 22 percent of the 192 claims filed against the county in 2011 were against the Montgomery County Police Department, according to county attorney records.