Elsewhere: Family can sue over fatal S.F. police shooting Chron

A federal appeals court ruled today that the family of an unarmed man killed by San Francisco police in 2006 can have a trial on a civil rights lawsuit filed against the city.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco turned down a bid by the city for a summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit filed by the family of Asa Sullivan.

Sullivan, 25, was fatally shot by police officers Michelle Alvis and John Keesor on June 6, 2006, in the attic of an apartment in which he had been staying at the Villas at Parkmerced, near San Francisco State University.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court said by a 2-1 vote that a jury should decide whether the officers used excessive force and recklessly provoked a violent confrontation.

Alvis, Keesor and a third officer, Paul Morgado, had responded to a report of possible drug activity in the apartment. Sullivan fled to the dark attic, which could be reached only through the ceiling of a closet, and refused the officers’ order to come out.

Keesor later said he opened fire after he saw “a black oblong thing” in Sullivan’s hand. Alvis, who was grazed by a ricocheting bullet from Keesor’s gun, said she fired after she saw something in Sullivan’s hand and saw him raise his right arm.

A dark glasses case was later found under Sullivan’s right arm.

The court majority said that since Sullivan was not accused of a crime, was not a danger to the public and had no way to escape from the attic, a jury should decide whether the use of deadly force was reasonable.

The family members named the city, the three officers and former Police Chief Heather Fong in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco August 2006.

The appeals court upheld a similar ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White refusing to dismiss the case.

Lawyers for the family and for the city were not immediately available for comment.

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