A federal jury trial has ended in frustration and disappointment for the family of a man shot and killed by a Seattle Police officer more than seven years ago.
The jury yesterday cleared Officer Robert Lisoski, former Police Chief Patrick Fitzsimons and Seattle of any liability for the 1988 shooting that left the 42-year-old man dead on a couch, a remote control slipping from his fingertips.
The jury ruled that Erdman Bascomb's civil rights were not violated by Lisoski, who fired the fatal shot, or the Seattle Police Department's drug-raid techniques.
Bascomb's family, who filed the civil lawsuit more than four years ago, had asked for compensation for emotional and financial loss stemming from Bascomb's death.
"It's gut-wrenching," said Paul Bascomb, Erdman's brother. The jury "gave this man no value, no consideration for his life whatsoever."
Paul Bascomb, 44, said the all-white jury that heard the case in U.S. District Court in Seattle did not constitute "a jury of peers" for Bascomb, a black man. If at least a few African-American jurors had heard how his brother had died, the verdict may well have been different, he said.
"As angry as I am, I don't want it sounding like I indict all white folks," Bascomb said. "But it's a bitter pill to swallow."
Since Erdman Bascomb's death, Lisoski and the department have contended that the shooting, while a tragedy, was justifiable under the circumstances. Lisoski, a 28-year veteran who now works as a detective in the department's South Precinct juvenile section, said he feared his life was in danger.
Lisoski was the first officer into the South Seattle apartment on the night of Feb. 17, 1988, after two others knocked in the front door with a battering ram. Lisoski thought Bascomb, who was lying on a couch, was pointing a gun in his direction. Lisoski fired once into Bascomb's chest.
Moments later, Lisoski realized the black object in Bascomb's hand was a television remote control. Police, who were acting on a tip, found no drugs in the apartment.
Bascomb family attorneys said the accident never would have happened had police given proper notice before entering the apartment. During the trial, they challenged the general "knock-and-announce" practice used during drug raids.