INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis police officer's lawsuit against the
original seller of a handgun later used to wound him might have to
overcome a state law that gives gun sellers significant immunity.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a Marion County court by the Washington-based
Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence claims KS&E Sports of Indianapolis
negligently sold the handgun used to shoot Officer Dwayne Runnels in 2011.
Runnels was wounded in the leg during an exchange of gunfire in which
Demetrious Martin was killed. Tarus Blackburn pleaded guilty to federal
charges of illegally selling the weapon to Martin, who couldn't legally
possess a firearm because he was a convicted felon.
The lawsuit claims Blackburn accompanied Martin to KS&E Sports in October
2011, bought a gun that Martin picked out and then sold it to Martin in
the store's parking lot. The lawsuit alleges the gun shop's workers should
have known Blackburn was making a "straw purchase" for Martin.
"I'm bringing the lawsuit because I do not want criminals to get guns,"
Runnels said. "I don't want another officer or a civilian to be shot by
one of these criminals, and every officer out there puts their life on the
line every day that they go to work."
A call by The Associated Press to a phone number for KS&E Sports rang
unanswered Wednesday. WISH-TV reports that a man at the shop who
identified himself as the owner declined to comment beyond saying, "We do
everything the right way."
Carmel attorney Guy Relford, who has filed several lawsuits against
restrictions on gun ownership rights, said he believed a state law
preventing lawsuits against gun manufacturers or sellers over the later
criminal use of the weapons would derail Runnels' case.
"It would appear to me that the immunity statute that has been in place in
Indiana since 2001 would create an insurmountable hurdle for the plaintiff
to get over in this case," Relford told The Indianapolis Star.
Jonathan Lowy, an attorney for the Brady Center, said he was confident the
lawsuit would move forward.
"This case is not anti-gun. This case is not anti-gun dealer," Lowy said.
"This case is pro responsibility, pro accountability, and pro public
Runnels' lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and order blocking KS&E Sports
from selling guns "until it modifies its deficient sales, training and
marketing policies governing the sale of firearms."
The Brady Center is assisting in eight other pending "negligent gun
distribution" lawsuits across the U.S., including one in northwestern
Indiana's Lake County in which Gary officials have sued 21 manufacturers
and distributors, six gun dealers and three trade associations for public
nuisance and liability.