Gun shop ordered to pay millions in lawsuit filed by injured police officers
Jurors have ordered a US gun store to pay nearly 6 million dollars (£4 million) in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who were shot and seriously wounded by a gun purchased at the shop.
The ruling came in a negligence lawsuit filed by the officers against Badger Guns, a shop in suburban Milwaukee that authorities have linked to hundreds of firearms found at crime scenes.
The lawsuit said the shop ignored several warning signs that the gun used to shoot the officers was being sold to a so-called straw buyer who was illegally purchasing the weapon for someone else.
Jurors sided with the officers, ruling that the store was negligent.
Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the pavement in summer 2009. Investigators said Burton got the weapon, a Taurus .40-calibre handgun, a month before the confrontation, after giving 40 dollars to another man, Jacob Collins, to make the purchase at the store in West Milwaukee.
One bullet shattered eight of Mr Norberg's teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged in his shoulder. He remains on the force but said his wounds have made his work difficult. Mr Kunisch was shot several times, resulting in him losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He said the wounds forced him to retire.
Jurors ordered the store to pay Mr Norberg 1.5 million dollars (£1 million) and Mr Kunisch 3.6 million dollars (£2.4 million). The jury also ruled the store must pay 730,000 dollars (£475,000) in punitive damages.
The officers' lawyer, Patrick Dunphy, said his clients "feel very relieved", although he anticipates years of appeals.
Defence lawyers declined to comment, and the owners and operators of the gun shop were not in court to hear the verdict.
The liability issues raised in the case gained attention in the US presidential campaign, when Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would push for a repeal of the George W Bush-era gun law that Badger Guns' lawyers said shielded the store from such claims.
The gun shop's lawyers denied wrongdoing and said the owner at the time of the sale, Adam Allan, could not be held financially responsible for crimes connected with a weapon sold at his shop and that the clerk who sold the weapon did not intentionally commit a crime. They said the salesman was duped by Collins and Burton, who went out of their way to deceive him.
Badger Guns, previously known as Badger Outdoors, has since closed and been replaced by a gun shop called Brew City Shooters Supply. All three entities have been run by Allan family members.
Authorities say more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors, making it the "number one crime gun dealer in America", according to a 2005 charging document from an unrelated case.
Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence. Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an under-age buyer.