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Lawsuit accusing LAPD in killing of football player dismissed

May 1, 2012 |  7:03 pm

A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed against the LAPD by the family of former college football player Reginald Doucet Jr., who was shot to death last year during a confrontation with officers.

In dismissing the suit, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Wilson ruled that the LAPD was entitled to "qualified immunity," the legal principle that shields police in certain circumstances from being held responsible in civil lawsuits for their official actions.

Family attorney Brian T. Dunn, who argued that police used excessive force and violated Doucet's civil rights, said he planned to appeal the ruling.

“We respect the judge's decision," Dunn said Tuesday evening. "We respectfully disagree with it and we will do everything to test the reasoning of it with an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The LAPD argued that its officers acted appropriately and that the case should be thrown out before trial given Doucet's "violent actions."

"Clearly our officers were acting in defense of their lives," LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.

Doucet, a former defensive back at El Camino College and Middle Tennessee State University, was fatally shot outside his Playa Vista condominium by LAPD officers on Jan. 11, 2011. Department officials described a "life or death struggle" between Doucet and the officers.

According to the department, the incident unfolded after police were summoned to the scene because Doucet was naked and had been arguing with a cab driver. Officers tried to calm Doucet, who was 6 foot tall and nearly 200 pounds.

Doucet then ran as the officers tried to apprehend him, police said. When officers caught up with Doucet in front of his home, they allege he "immediately attacked both officers," punching them in the face. They also allege he grabbed the handle of Officer Aaron Goff's gun and tried unsuccessfully to yank it out of its holster.

During the struggle, one of the officers then opened fire, striking Doucet twice. Doucet was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

-- Andrew Blankstein (Twitter.com/anblanx)