Jurors hear from Flanary’s parents in civil trial — (tdn.com)

SSRI Ed note: Teen, 19, given antidepressants by his mom diagnosed bipolar, behaves strangely, lunges at police with spoons. Law decides it was OK to shoot , kill him.

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By Amy M. E. Fischer

TACOMA — Daniel Flanary’s mother was using a line of methamphetamine almost every day for six months leading up to her son’s fatal shooting, she said in her sworn deposition.

Attorneys read sections of Marleen Reed’s deposition to jurors in federal court this week. Although her thoughts seemed scattered, and she had difficulty finishing her sentences, Reed made it clear that she loved and missed her son, describing their relationship as “really close.”

“Daniel was real easy-going. Daniel was a teddy bear … He was clown of the class,” said Reed, who suffers from a bi-polar disorder.

Earlier this week, jurors heard testimony that it was the antidepressant medications Reed gave her son from her own stash of prescription drugs that triggered his two dramatic manic episodes, one of which ended with a fatal gunshot wound to the chest.

Dennis Flanary Sr., Daniel’s father, took the stand in the civil trial Tuesday. A barrel-chested, bearded man with a gray ponytail draping down the back of his navy blazer, Dennis Flanary told the court about the custody problems he faced over the children he fathered with Reed, whom he never married.

The family moved frequently, and Daniel and his brother bounced back and forth between their parents until settling down with their mother when they were teenagers, he testified.

Daniel Flanary’s parents are suing the city of Kelso over the wrongful death of their 19-year-old son, accusing police of using excessive force when they tried to apprehend the bi-polar teen. On Feb. 19, 2001, a Kelso police officer shot and killed Flanary when he lunged at a group of officers with a pair of flattened spoons that he brandished like an ice pick.

In addition to punitive damages, Flanary’s parents are seeking compensation for the loss of their son.

Under cross-examination, the city’s defense attorney asked Dennis Flanary a series of questions about his son’s education. Flanary could not recall where his son attended junior and senior high school or name any of his teachers or principals during those years.

Dennis Flanary, a long-haul trucker, also acknowledged he hadn’t seen his son’s report cards from the last few years of his schooling, although he said he had asked Daniel about them.

The week his son was shot, Dennis Flanary had been driving a truck to Colorado to pick up a load, he testified. His youngest son, Dennis Jr., had called him a couple of days before the shooting to tell him his brother was acting strangely, he said. But when he spoke to Daniel on the phone, he sounded normal, the father said.

Dennis Flanary Sr. also testified that, given his conversations with Daniel’s doctors three weeks earlier when the teen was in a psychiatric ward, he was surprised to learn that his son had been discharged. He had been under the impression Daniel would be held at St. John Medical Center longer than 16 days, he said.

Court proceedings have been held three to four days a week since the trial began April 18. Monday, the defense will call its last expert witness, a crisis intervention trainer.

Attorneys expect to present final statements and jury instructions either late Monday or early Tuesday. The eight-member jury must reach a unanimous verdict to find the city liable in the case.


Jury clears cops in Flanary’s death— (tdn.com)

By Amy M. E. Fischer

TACOMA — A jury on Tuesday took only 4 1/2 hours to unanimously decide that Kelso police appropriately handled a confrontation with an agitated, mentally ill teenager in 2001 that ended in the young man’s death.

The eight-member jury reached a verdict around 3:15 p.m. in U.S. District Court, finding in favor of all six Kelso police officers involved in the shooting of Daniel Flanary on all of the plaintiffs’ claims. The jury also rejected the Flanary family’s charge that the city insufficiently trained its officers in how to deal with mentally ill people in crisis.

“Obviously, it was a tragic situation for everybody involved, but certainly, we are happy with the verdict,” Kelso City Manager Doug Robinson said late Tuesday afternoon.

In a prepared statement, Kelso Police Chief Wayne Nelson said, “all of us wish the events of Feb. 19, 2001, had never happened, but they did. It was truly a tragedy for everyone involved. We are sorry for the loss suffered by the Flanary family.

“At the same time, it is very gratifying to have a federal jury confirm our belief that on that day, our officers responded appropriately, professionally, and in accordance with their training.”

Nelson added, “We also believe our tools and training are even better today than they were four years ago.”

The verdict means that officers Kirk Wiper, Mike Cowan, Derek Arnett, Eric Koreis, Jerry Johnson and Sgt. Joe Dieter are not liable for monetary damages. The Flanary family had sued the officers individually on the grounds that they violated Daniel Flanary’s constitutional rights by using excessive force in trying to take him into custody.

The family’s attorneys also had asked the city to pay Flanary’s mother between $1 million and $3 million for the loss of her son, and to pay his father between $700,000 and $3 million.

During the course of the three-week trial, a jury of seven women and one man heard testimony about the sudden onset of Daniel Flanary’s previously undiagnosed bipolar disorder at age 19. Jurors also heard about how his family neglected to fill his antipsychotic medication prescriptions, which would have prevented manic episodes such as the one that consumed him on the day he died.

On the evening of Feb. 19, 2001, police encountered Flanary yelling obscenities on a street in West Kelso. The teenager fled and broke down the apartment door of an elderly woman, who escaped unharmed. Five police officers cornered Flanary inside and attempted to douse him with pepper spray, but the can malfunctioned and the spray had little effect.

Officers said the raging, incoherent, irrational teenager backed up and sat on the edge of a couch, clutching what they thought were cutting-edged weapons in his fists. When Flanary did not obey repeated orders to drop his weapons — which turned out to be a pair of flattened teaspoons he used as musical instruments — or get down on the floor, officer Wiper began shooting him in the legs with a beanbag gun.

After the fifth beanbag shot, Flanary, who stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 270 pounds, charged at the officers, who had surrounded him with guns drawn. Former police officer Derek Arnett fatally shot him in the chest.

The city fired Arnett, who had been with the department four years, on Aug. 10 last year. Documents and interviews showed that Arnett, a competent and likeable police officer, began slipping deeper into alcohol abuse, grief and rage after shooting Flanary.

Flanary’s family contended that police should have attempted to calm the teen down by using de-escalation techniques.

Don Law, the city’s attorney, said Tuesday afternoon that the verdict did not come as a surprise, given that the evidence presented in the three-week trial “was so compelling that what the officers did on that day was absolutely correct, given the circumstances that they were presented with.”

Charles Paglialunga, one of the family’s three attorneys, said what may have tipped the jury in the city’s favor was the heavy emphasis the defense placed on Daniel Flanary’s violent manic behavior during his 16-day stay in St. John Medical Center’s psychiatric ward. Flanary was released from the hospital seven days before his deadly face-off with police.

Flanary’s family may decide to appeal the ruling, Paglialunga said Tuesday evening.

“We’re obviously very disappointed. The family’s very disappointed,” he said.