URBANA — The attorney representing three Vermilion County sheriff's deputies involved in the 2010 fatal shooting of a Home Gardens man already has taken steps to get a civil action against the officers thrown out.
Michael W. Condon recently filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Urbana to dismiss the lawsuit filed against Deputies Tom Cruppenink, Pete Miller and Doug Miller by the administrator of Michael J. Brandel's estate.
"We intend on vigorously defending the allegations made in the complaint," Condon, of Hervas, Condon & Bersani, PC of Itasca, said Monday.
The suit, which also names Vermilion County and Sheriff Pat Hartshorn as defendants, was filed in February by First Federal Savings & Loan of Mattoon on behalf of Mr. Brandel's estate and beneficiaries.
It claims that Cruppenink, Pete Miller and Doug Miller, now a Danville police officer, violated Mr. Brandel's constitutional rights when they entered his residence at 2423 Georgetown Road, south of Tilton, on the evening of Nov. 27, 2010, and one of them fatally shot him. It seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorneys fees.
"It's very straightforward. It alleges an unjustified entry and use of deadly force by police officers," said Jim Lees Jr. of Hunt & Lees, LC of Charleston, W.Va., the firm representing First Federal. "Mr. Brandel was in his bathroom. The police kicked in the door. They shot him three times and killed him. That was not a justified use of deadly force."
According to an Illinois State Police report, Pete Miller responded to the house Mr. Brandel, 40, was renting after his landlord reported his tenant was "acting strangely" and tearing up the inside of the residence. When he arrived, Mr. Brandel threw several objects through a front picture window and refused to come to the door, even though Miller used his Taser on him several times.
After Miller called for backup, he, Cruppenink and Doug Miller busted through another door and went inside. They found Mr. Brandel behind a closed bathroom door. When they kicked the door, it fell on top of him.
The report said two deputies used their Tasers on Mr. Brandel, again with little or no effect. They said Mr. Brandel got up, picked up a piece of splintered wood trim from the door frame and swung it at them, even though the officers ordered him to put it down or they would shoot. After Mr. Brandel lunged at Cruppenink, the deputy shot at Mr. Brandel three times.
An autopsy showed he suffered from two gunshot wounds, but there was no evidence of close-range fire. Toxicology reports showed he had nothing in his system that night.
Mr. Brandel's mother told state police her son had been diagnosed as bipolar about 20 years prior, had received treatment at a mental-health facility at one time and had a history of not taking his medication. His father told police his son was not doing well after visiting his dying grandfather just days before the shooting, and that he and other family members tried unsuccessfully to get him to check into a hospital.
In April 2011, Vermilion County State's Attorney Randy Brinegar, who reviewed the investigation, concluded the deputies acted appropriately and the use of deadly force was "clearly" justified.
The suit alleges that Mr. Brandel didn't respond to deputies' commands, even after they used Tasers on him. However, it claims the officers had no legal authority to execute "a warrantless forced entry" into the residence and bathroom and that Mr. Brandel "neither threatened the deputies with physical harm or posed any risk of serious harm, injury or death." It also claims the sheriff's department had "no proper or viable protocols or procedures in place to properly advise deputy sheriffs as to how to properly act" and failed to provide "proper and adequate supervision" during the incident.