Civil Rights

Federal judge OKs suit over 'shocking' claim 911 operator told harassed man to return to crime scene

Disagreeing with a recommendation by a magistrate that a civil rights case should be dismissed, a federal judge in Denver gave a green light on Monday to a family’s lawsuit over the death of a Sudanese refugee.

Soon-to-be victim Jimma Reat, 25, and others called 911 in April 2012 reporting that they had driven outside the city limits after being threatened and racially taunted by a car of Hispanic men, with one allegedly brandishing a gun. In a response that U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn called “conscience-shocking,” the 911 operator, who was since fired, told the group they had to return to the city to make a police report, the Denver Post recounts.

“After directing plaintiffs to park in a conspicuous location on a major road on which he knew the attackers had been traveling just minutes before, Mr. Rodriguez then instructed plaintiffs to activate their hazard lights, making them even more visible and obvious than they already were at that early hour of the morning,” Blackburn wrote in his Monday order, assuming the alleged facts to be true for the purpose of deciding the motion.

The group of men in the other vehicle got there before police did, shooting and killing Reat, according to the suit.

Although the judge OK’d the suit against the 911 operator and the city and county of Denver, he dismissed a count asserting that the city had been deliberately indifferent to the need to train workers appropriately.

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