Opening Arguments Begin in Civil Case of Dallas Officer Who Fatally Shot Man in Dixon Circle

A federal jury heard opening testimony Tuesday in a woman's wrongful death lawsuit that claims a Dallas police officer used excessive and deadly force in a struggle that ended with him fatally shooting her son in 2012. James Harper, 31, was unarmed on July 24, 2012, when he was shot to death by Officer Brian Rowden in an incident that nearly incited riots in the Dixon Circle community of South Dallas.A Dallas County grand jury decided to not indict Rowden in 2013. Sandra Harper, James Harper's mother, filed the lawsuit against the city of Dallas and the officer in July 2014, two years after the shooting.In her suit, Sandra Harper alleges Rowden used excessive force when he shot her son three times, and claims James Harper was the victim of racial profiling. The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages.The shooting happened after Rowden and other officers were sent to a house in the 5300 block of Bourquin Street after an anonymous person called 911 to report an armed kidnapping on the street. That call was later determined to be fake.Once at the home, Rowden's defense argued, the officer saw a gun and four men in the house. The men fled from the back of the house and officers chased them, with Rowden in pursuit of Harper.Rowden's defense says he jumped three fences while chasing Harper. The former officer told investigators he was involved in multiple struggles with Harper, and eventually shot him because he thought Harper was reaching in his pocket for a weapon.Harper was later determined to be unarmed.On Tuesday, Sandra Harper and other family members sat in the front row of Judge Barbara Lynn's courtroom as lead prosecutor Daryl K. Washington argued Rowden crossed the line. Washington said police officers have a difficult job, but need to be held accountable when misconduct happens."Within that job, there are rules that we have to oblige by, and if we violate those rules, there are consequences, no matter how difficult that job may be," Washington told the jury in opening arguments. "This case is not an indictment against the Dallas Police Department. This case is an indictment against Officer Brian Rowden."Washington attempted to poke holes in Rowden's story, which he said the former officer has changed multiple times.He suggested Rowden's entire encounter with Harper lasted two minutes, and shouldn't have escalated to a shooting in that time frame. Washington showed the jury photos of bruises Harper sustained and argued the officer wasn't harmed."He's not a monster, but on July 24, 2012, he made a bad decision," Washington said of Rowden. "He made a very bad decision."Rowden's attorneys argued that the shooting was tragic but justified. They said Harper was shot because he didn't comply with Rowden's commands. Rowden claimed he saw a gun in the house, and his attorneys argued Harper "became an immediate threat to the officer" when he continued to reach into his pockets. The officer, who didn't know Harper was unarmed, was forced to make a split-second decision, his attorneys argue.The federal trial is expected to continue into next week. Because the case is being heard in civil court, the family's attorneys only need to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, whereas in a criminal case evidence must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  Continue reading...

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