Thursday, June 3, 2021

Family files wrongful-death lawsuit in deputy's fatal shooting last summer of Hannah Fizer during traffic stop while she was driving to work in Sedalia, MO

Hannah Fizer


The father of Hannah Fizer has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the sheriff's deputy who fatally shot the 25-year-old Fizer last summer during a traffic stop in Sedalia, Missouri. A special prosecutor in January refused to bring criminal charges against the deputy, while admitting the shooting could have been avoided. From a report at the Columbia Missourian:

John Fizer, the father of a woman who was shot and killed by an on-duty deputy, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Pettis County.

Hannah Fizer, 25, was shot and killed in Sedalia in June after a Pettis County deputy pulled her over. Early reports indicated Hannah told the deputy she had a gun and would shoot him, though no gun was found in her vehicle. 

John Fizer filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Pettis County . . . seeking damages against the deputy. The lawsuit argues the shooting was unjustified, an excessive use of force was used and that the deputy did not follow several standard law enforcement protocols during the stop, according to reporting by KSHB. John Fizer also said the deputy failed to deescalate the situation.

In September, special prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff said the shooting was justified. He mentioned the absence of body camera footage did make the decision more difficult. 

The deputy was placed on leave but returned to the force in October.

From a report at in Kansas City: 

The family of Hannah Fizer alleges that “no reasonable officer” would have shot and killed her under the circumstances during a traffic stop on June 13, 2020.

Fizer’s father, John Fizer, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Pettis County court . . . seeking damages against Pettis County Deputy Jordan Schutte.

Schutte fatally shot Fizer, 25, after pulling her over in Sedalia, Missouri.

Early reports indicated Fizer told the deputy she had a gun and would shoot him, though no gun was found in her vehicle.

The lawsuit argues the shooting was unjustified and an excessive use of force and that Schutte did not follow several standard law enforcement protocols during the stop.

Fizer’s family claims Schutte failed to try to deescalate the situation in any way, and instead took an offensive approach.

When the deputy felt he was in danger, the lawsuit alleges he did not call for backup or take a defensive position as commonly taught in “universally accepted police procedures.”

Instead, he moved toward the front of Fizer’s car into a better firing position, according to the suit.

“Schutte had the ability and responsibility to prevent the use of deadly force against Ms. Fizer but failed to do so,” the lawsuit reads. “His actions contributed to Ms. Fizer’s avoidable death.”

The family says Schutte made several claims contrary to video evidence.

Bryan Turner White, of Independence, MO, is serving as attorney for the Fizer family.


Anonymous said...

A special prosecutor admitted this young woman's death could have been avoided, but he declined to bring charges. WTH.

legalschnauzer said...

That doesn't seem to make much sense, does it? I don't think anyone disputes the deputy shot her intentionally. The deputy apparently was afraid Ms. Fizer would use a gun she did not have. Just a tragic and disturbing case on many levels. I'm not sure what Missouri statute was in play here, but it's hard to see how this deputy remains on the job, facing no criminal charges -- while a young woman is dead, when she simply was trying to drive to work.

legalschnauzer said...

The special prosecutor stated this death could have been avoided. It would have been helpful if he had gone into specifics, listing the ways this could have been avoided. I suspect the list would have been fairly lengthy -- and most enlightening to the public.

Anonymous said...

If she committed a traffic violation, why didn't he just write her a ticket and get back to his donut? Why did the conversation have to lead to an alleged threat and use of deadly force? Did he perceive that she somehow "dissed" him, so she deserved to die.

legalschnauzer said...

An LS post at the following URL includes a video at the bottom, showing the officer moving to the front of Fizer's vehicle for a head-on shot straight at her. He had to know that was likely to be fatal. Sure looks like an intentional killing to me.

legalschnauzer said...

It also should be noted that, despite Ms. Fizer's alleged threat to use a non-existent gun, the officer is not seen on video trying to take cover.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the family's lawsuit was filed in state court rather than federal court.

legalschnauzer said...

Good question. I'm not an expert on such issues, but here is a semi-educated guess: Missouri has a Human Rights Commission, which allows for civil rights cases to be tried in state court. Not sure how many states have such a set-up. It's possible the family's attorneys felt they would draw a more sympathetic jury in state court. In federal court, Western District of Missouri, jurors (I believe) would be drawn from the entire western half of the state. In state court, jurors likely will come from Pettis County, where emotions have tended to run high, mostly in favor of justice for Ms. Fizer. Probably a calculated gamble on the attorney's part, but I suspect it's a wise one.

legalschnauzer said...

Another interesting legal question: Why is the deputy the only named defendant? It's unlikely that he has "deep pockets," so why is he the only defendant? I don't know the answer, but I suspect the family lawyer has a good reason for doing it that way. Perhaps other entities -- the sheriff's office, the county -- can be brought in later, perhaps after discovery.