EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The father and therapist of a man killed by a Eugene police officer five years ago took the stand Tuesday during a federal wrongful-death case, opening a trial that questions whether that officer was justified in shooting the PTSD-afflicted veteran in his doorway.
Will Stutesman fatally shot Brian Babb, 49, from the turret of an armored vehicle. Stutesman has said Babbs aimed a rifle at him. The Lane County District Attorney ruled Stutesman acted in self defense and was not criminally liable, but the Babb family is seeking damages because they believe the scene was altered to make Babb appear dangerous.
Babb family attorney Carlton Odim in opening arguments painted a picture of a man coming back from the edge of suicide before police arrived and fatally shot him.
Babb called his therapist, Becky Higgins, on March 30, 2015. Higgins testified Babb had suffered traumatic brain injury during military service in Afghanistan.
Higgins said she was talking Babb down over the phone and, putting him on hold, called police. She said Babb had reached a positive “turning point” but that he put the phone down when police arrived.
Robert Franz, an attorney for Stutesman, said his case rests on the jury finding that Babb was a danger and Stutesman was justified in killing him.
During his opening arguments, Franz said there only were six minutes between the sound of the shot and when the video footage shows the rifle on the front porch, a time in which he said the plaintiffs would have to prove the scene was altered.
“It’s our position that Officer Stutesman was justified in using force when the weapon was pointed at him. In the circumstance, he had to make the decision very quickly,” Franz said.
The trial is expected to last into next week.