Mother suing Walworth County over son’s death

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staff, Gazette
Saturday, June 1, 2013

— The mother of a town of Lyons man fatally shot by a Walworth County sheriff’s deputy last year is suing the county and two deputies, claiming excessive force.

Nancy Brown’s son, 22-year-old John Brown, was shot to death by Deputy Wayne Blanchard early on the morning of May 5, 2012.

Blanchard and another deputy, Christopher Such, responded to the Browns’ home after Nancy Brown reported John was suicidal, authorities said.

When John Brown approached Blanchard and Such with a knife, authorities said, Blanchard shot Brown twice, killing him.

A lawsuit filed May 8 in federal court accuses Blanchard of using excessive force in the shooting.

The suit also charges Walworth County with failing to properly train Blanchard and Such “in the appropriate use of force,” and accuses Such of not intervening to prevent the shooting.

Brown’s lawyer, Rebekah Williams of the Chicago personal injury law firm Romanucci & Blandin, provided a copy of the complaint to The Gazette.

Brown is seeking money damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

Nancy Brown called 911 just after midnight the night her son was killed, according to the lawsuit.

She told a dispatcher John had a history of bipolar disorder, was cutting himself with a knife and had locked himself in his bedroom alone, according to the complaint.

Blanchard would later kick down Brown’s bedroom door with his gun drawn, while Such stood behind Blanchard with a Taser, according to the complaint.

Although authorities said Brown approached the deputies with a knife, the lawsuit claims Brown was standing “in the center of the bedroom motionless” when Blanchard shot him twice.

Brown died an hour later at Lakeland Medical Center, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2012, then-District Attorney Phillip Koss wrote a letter to the state Division of Criminal Investigation saying the shooting was justified as an act of self-defense.

“I believe there was no other reasonable conclusion other than deputy Blanchard was attempting to prevent himself or deputy Such from being attacked with deadly force,” Koss wrote.

The lawsuit alleges the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office created a policy under which deputies, “arrested individuals without probable cause, used excessive force when conducting those arrests, and failed to give proper medical treatment to suspects … including John Brown.”

Walworth County Corporation Counsel Dave Bretl said the county has turned Brown’s lawsuit over to Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance, which will handle the case.

The insurance company official who handles Walworth County cases was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Friday.

Last updated: 7:57 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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