Vindicated: Court Finally Backs Off-Duty Cop for 2011 Robbery Intervention
CHICAGO, IL — The Seventh Circuit court has at long last ruled in favor of an off-duty police officer who opened fire on a group of young thugs attempting to rob a pizza parlor back in 2011, the Courthouse News Service reports.
Controversy came from his actions after it was discovered that a 16-year-old, one of the robbers, had been killed, and he was unarmed.
The court ruled that the off-duty officer had no reason to believe that the teen was unarmed — he was robbing a restaurant, after all.
As the Courthouse News Service reports:
In October 2011, three young men and 16-year-old Michael DeAngelo Sago, Jr. walked into Marie’s Pizza in Rockford, Ill., with the intent of robbing the store, according to court records.
Unfortunately for them, the only customer inside the pizzeria was off-duty police officer Frank Pobjecky waiting for his order. When the first robber pointed a gun at the restaurant manager and demanded money, the manager yelled, “Get the hell out of here, you’re not getting any of my f’ing money,” court records show, and immediately tried to grab the robber’s weapon.
Pobjecky knew the manager carried his own concealed weapon, and endeavored to grab the manager’s gun before the robber could get it. The off-duty officer then shot each of the three men who entered the store, wounding them, and shot Sago three times in the back as the teen tried to run away, killing him.
Pobjecky never identified himself as a police officer or ordered anyone to stop before opening fire. The restaurant manager took the robber’s gun, but did not fire any shots. Sago’s family sued Pobjecky and Winnebago County, claiming the officer’s shooting of the unarmed teen was an excessive use of force.
But a federal judge ruled against the family, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed Tuesday.
“Pobjecky reasonably assumed the three other assailants, including Michael, might be armed. As the district court correctly observed, we may not consider the fact that it turned out Michael was unarmed because Pobjecky did not know that, and had no reasonable way to know that, at the time,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-judge panel.
Sago might well have been armed, but he was willingly working with a party presenting a deadly threat. Of course the off-duty officer responded the way he did.
It’s a tragedy, without a doubt — any 16-year-old’s life cut short before they could be rehabilitated is awful.
But it’s awful hard to expect officer Pobjecky to react with less than deadly force.
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