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Officer who killed man in ‘swatting’ call can be sued, appeals court says

The court upheld a lower court’s ruling that denied qualified immunity to Officer Justin Rapp


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By Suzie Ziegler

WICHITA, Kan. — An appeals court in Kansas has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the officer who fired the fatal shot in a 2017 ‘swatting’ incident, reported the Kansas Reflector.

Wichita police officer Justin Rapp killed Andrew Finch while responding to a hoax 911 call about a possible murder and hostage situation. Believing Finch had a gun, Rapp pulled the trigger when Finch stepped outside to speak with officers. Finch wasn’t armed, police later learned, and the fake call was orchestrated by online gaming rivals. Three men were charged for soliciting and placing the call.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed that Finch’s family could sue Rapp, but not the City of Wichita. Finch’s family had filed a $25 million lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Wichita alleging excessive force and constitutional violations. The district court rejected Rapp’s qualified immunity defense and granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Wichita and some responding officers.

The Finch family appealed the summary judgment and Rapp appealed the denial of qualified immunity, the report said. The appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling, saying it was right to deny Rapp qualified immunity because a reasonable jury could conclude Finch was unarmed and unthreatening, according to the report.

“As a result, qualified immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law,” the appellate judges said, according to the report.

Rapp was not charged by the Sedgwick County district attorney nor disciplined by the police department after the 2017 incident.