Shooting victim’s lawsuit against trooper dismissed

DOVER — A man shot in the back during a Delaware State Police pursuit in 2013 lost an appeal to revive a lawsuit against a trooper last week.

In a four-page order issued Friday, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. affirmed an Aug. 23, 2017 Superior Court ruling that Keith M. Schueller had not proven his claim.

Schueller’s only argument, according to the Court, was that Trooper Brett Cordrey “could not have feared for his life because he shot Schueller in the back.”

While that was acknowledged in Superior Court, according to the order, it was also determined that “Cordrey believed, at the time, that he shot Schueller in the chest” and that the trooper “did not use excessive or unnecessary force under the circumstance” because he feared for his life.

The finding was reasonable, according to the Supreme Court, since the trooper’s testimony was credited and Schueller’s was discredited.

“Although reasonable minds may differ on what evidence to credit, but crediting the officer’s testimony the Superior Court could logically conclude that the officer employed reasonable force in light of the threat,” Chief Justice Strine wrote.

The Superior Court did acknowledge that neither the trooper or Schueller could provide “a reasonable explanation for how exactly Schueller got shot in the back.”

Supreme Court said the lower court was “admirably candid in finding that aspects of the officer’s own story were less than fully convincing, but it also found the plaintiff’s version of events suspect.”

The record showed that Schueller “was fleeing from and resisting arrest, had struck a vehicle during his flight, had refused to stop resisting after demands from the officer, and was wielding a shovel at the officer from a close distance when the officer shot him.”

Supreme Court noted that just prior to the shooting, according to Superior Court “Schueller again turned to face Cordrey” while “waving his shovel around ‘like a crazy person,’ “

Trooper Cordrey’s concern was deemed legitimate in Superior Court and he “was in fear for his safety” and “felt ‘the greatest fear [he has] ever had in [his] life,’ ” Supreme Court cited.

The matter, submitted last Wednesday, was also heard before Justices Collins J. Seitz, Jr., Karen L. Valihura, James T. Vaughn, Jr. and Gary F. Traynor.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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