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Man wounded in unjustified police shooting files federal lawsuit

A 53-year-old man wounded by Ogden police in a shooting that prosecutors later determined to be unjustified has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a former officer, the police department and the city.
A 53-year-old man wounded by Ogden police in a shooting that prosecutors later determined to be unjustified has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a former officer, the police department and the city.
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OGDEN — A man shot by Ogden police in an incident prosecutors later found to be legally unjustified has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the former officer involved, the city, the police chief and others in the department.

Clifford Owens, 53, is suing for general and special damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

The incident occurred on Dec. 18, 2012, after Ogden police had responded to a domestic violence report near The Gate at Canyon Ridge apartments, 1455 Valley Drive.

When Ogden police officer Justin Kaufman approached Owens sitting in a vehicle, Owens drove away, sideswiping Kaufman's patrol vehicle, charging documents state. Kaufman followed him to a dead-end parking area and boxed Owens in with his police car and a carport wall.

"Owens wedged his vehicle in between the wall and patrol (car), ramming each and forced his way through, drawing fire from Kaufman," according to a police affidavit.

Owens' attorney, Michael Studebaker, said in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that Owens had come to the complex to wait for a friend, had never been to the apartment before and was nervous about rumored drugs and crime in the area.

He fell asleep in the vehicle while waiting and was "startled by a pounding and yelling outside his passenger door," the lawsuit states, adding that the person at his window did not indicate he was a police officer.

"Without a second of thought, (Owens) instinctively and immediately turned on his car and rapidly drove off," the complaint says.

Kaufman fired his weapon several times, striking Owens in the left hand and his left shoulder. As Owens fled, the pursuit reached speeds in excess of 100 mph, leading police to terminate the chase due to safety concerns. The tires of Owens' vehicle were eventually spiked, which led him to continue his escape attempt on rims by the time the pursuit reached Logan.

Weber County Attorney Dee Smith later determined that the shooting was not legally justified. No criminal charges were filed against Kaufman but he resigned from the department, according to The Associated Press.

Owens was sentenced to 120 days in jail and was ordered to pay restitution of more than $7,000 to the Ogden Police Department for convictions of failure to stop or respond at the command of police, a third-degree felony, and an amended count of assault against a police officer, a class A misdemeanor. Two other charges against him were dismissed.

The lawsuit alleges previous instances of excessive force by Kaufman and claims "Ogden City, through its chief of police (and other defendants) … deliberately and willfully ignored the prior evidence of dangerous and improper conduct of Kaufman and thereby endangered" Owens.

The lawsuit did not elaborate on Kaufman's alleged conduct.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

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