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CLEVELAND -- A federal judge said Monday that there is enough evidence that a jury could find two Cleveland police detectives used excessive force in fatally shooting Brandon McCloud, and the judge questioned whether the 15-year-old posed a threat to the detectives.
U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by McCloud's family against Detectives Philip Habeeb and John Kraynik, who shot McCloud 10 times while searching his home in 2005.
"The evidence plausibly suggests that McCloud was merely complying with the detectives' instructions," the judge wrote.
McCloud's shooting polarized Cleveland. State Sen. Shirley Smith, then in the Ohio House, called the detectives "hit men."
The city prosecutor initially ruled that the shooting was justified. A special prosecutor later said the detectives broke no laws but he refused to rule the killing "justified."
McCloud's family filed suit against the detectives in 2006. Habeeb and Kraynik asked O'Malley to dismiss the suit. They said they confronted a suspect who moved out of a closet suddenly in a small, dark bedroom with a knife in hand.
"This was a terrible tragedy for the family, but we're pleased that the court validated our belief that this shooting was totally unnecessary and unjustified."
Terry Gilbert, the attorney for Brandon McCloud's family
They said McCloud, just seven feet away, presented a serious threat to their safety.
O'Malley said in her 54-page ruling that McCloud was not charging the officers, since a mattress separated him from them, and that he wasn't waving the knife he held in his right hand in a threatening manner.
The detectives were investigating the robbery of a pizza delivery man at knifepoint on Aug. 31, 2005, in the 7800 block of Jeffries Avenue, where McCloud lived. They obtained a search warrant for his home, since McCloud had admitted to committing 15 robberies of delivery drivers in the past.
The detectives went into the home at 5 a.m. Sept. 1.
An attorney for the officers, Aretta Bernard, said she is reviewing the case. Terry Gilbert, the attorney for McCloud's family, said he was pleased with the decision.
"This was a terrible tragedy for the family, but we're pleased that the court validated our belief that this shooting was totally unnecessary and unjustified," Gilbert said.
Habeeb and Kraynik have lawsuits pending in federal court against Smith, whom they are suing for slander, and against the city. The detectives say city leaders violated their civil rights by keeping them from returning to work for nine months after the shooting.