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Jury Turn Down Widow’s Suit In Death of Football Player

February 16, 1988

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A federal jury turned down a wrongful death suit filed by the widow of former Indiana University football player Denver Smith against the city of Bloomington and three police officers.

″We were disappointed. Very, very disappointed,″ Cynequa Smith, who had sought $1.8 million in damages, said after the verdict Monday.

Mrs. Smith’s lawsuit claimed police officers had violated her civil and constitutional rights, as well as those of her late husband and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, when they fatally shot Smith during a struggle over a gun on Sept. 12, 1983.

Mrs. Smith’s attorney, Rich D. Hailey, said he would decide within a week whether an appeal would be filed.

Mrs. Smith claimed her husband was mentally impaired when he was shot. Her lawsuit alleged negligence on the part of Bloomington police officers Steven Sharp, Randall Keller and James Ratcliff.

Defense attorney Doug King said in closing arguments Sunday that the three officers ″did only what they had to, not what they wanted to do.″

In his instructions to the jury, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Tinder said they were to balance the plaintiff’s claim that Smith’s rights were violated by the excessive use of force with the defendant’s contention that using deadly force was reasonable because the officers had cause to believe Smith posed a threat to their safety and lives.

Smith was from Dayton, Ohio.

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