Andrew Blanchfield, Managing Partner at Keogh Cox, represented the Louisiana Office of State Police and a State Trooper in a recent wrongful death jury trial in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. In the case, Andrew Arway was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Avoyelles Parish on May 24, 2004 by a Louisiana State Trooper.
The Trooper’s dash cam video established that the traffic stop was initiated at 4:30 a.m. However, Arway did not initially stop his vehicle and instead drove forward slowly for several hundred feet. Once Arway’s vehicle came to a stop, he exited, placed his hands in his pockets, and began to move to the front of his truck, ignoring the Trooper’s commands. Arway then made the motion of searching for a weapon. At one point, he formed his hands as if he held a gun and yelled “freeze.” In response, the Trooper loudly commanded Arway to place his hands where they could be seen. Arway again ignored the Trooper’s commands and moved towards a ditch, outside of camera view.
The Trooper testified that Arway continued to make gestures as if he was looking for a weapon around his ankle. According to the Trooper, he fired two shots when he lost sight of Arway’s hands. No weapon was found on Arway and his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
Arway’s wife and children brought a wrongful death action alleging excessive force. At trial, Blanchfield argued that the Trooper’s force was reasonable and that the Trooper justifiably feared for his life in view of Arway’s bizarre and threatening behavior. Evidence was also presented that Arway’s behavior was consistent with a “suicide by cop” theory.
The Baton Rouge jury deliberated for 90 minutes and concluded that the Trooper’s use of force was reasonable under the circumstances.
Andrew “Drew” Blanchfield is a litigator with over 30 years of courtroom experience. Litigating dozens of complex jury trials in state and federal courts, Drew has offered representation to various sectors to include industrial accidents, business litigation, oil and gas, healthcare, and professional liability defense. When he is not advising his corporate clients or in a court room (or on the tennis court), Drew spends time with his wife and four children.