Gun Store Found Liable in $6 Million Lawsuit
A Milwaukee, Wisconsin jury had to decide if a gun store was liable for a straw purchase that resulted in the gun being used in the shooting of two police officers. After 12 hours of deliberations, the jury decided that the gun store is liable.
In 2009, Milwaukee police officers Graham Kunisch and Bryan Norberg approached 18-year-old Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk. They struggled and Burton pulled a gun. Kunisch was shot 5 fives, including in the face, losing an eye. Part of his brain was removed. Norberg was shot in the mouth and still has bullet fragments in his cheek. Burton was arrested and charged.
Surveillance video showed that Burton and a friend went to Badger Guns a month before the shooting. Burton gave his friend $40.00 to purchase the gun for him. Court records state that Burton gave that money to his friend to buy the gun because he was underage. The store clerk appears to help the friend fill-out the paperwork.
Burton testified at trial via video from the state prison. He testified that he went to Badger Guns for a handgun because “everyone” knew that was the place to go.
The jury awarded the two officers $6 million, finding that Badger Guns was negligent in making the sale, and therefore liable for the shooting that leaves both officers in pain for the rest of their lives.
There are currently a half dozen other lawsuits pending against gun dealers or gun stores for allegedly allowing the illegal sale of firearms. Tuesday’s verdict could impact those and future cases. However, it all depends on the evidence presented to the jury.
Earlier this year, a Juneau, Alaska jury found that a gun store owner did not illegally sell fugitive Jason Coday a weapon. Coday killed painting contractor, 26-year-old Simone Young Kim, in August 2006. The case is distinguishable from the Milwaukee case. In the Alaska case, gun store owner Coxe consistently maintained that Cody stole the gun.
Testimony at trial was that Coday walked into Rayco Sales on Aug. 2, 2006, and talked with Coxe for about 15 to 20 minutes about buying a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic rifle. Coday was then left unattended in the store, left $200 on the table and walked out with the rifle unnoticed. Coxe called the police and reported the gun stolen about 20 minutes later.
Kim’s estate alleged that Coxe sold Cody the gun off the books and destroyed the video evidence to hide the illegal transaction. Neither of the two cameras in the store recorded when Cody was in the store. They argued that Coxe had no legitimate reason to leave Coday alone in the store. Coxe’s attorney argued that it was a conspiracy theory without evidence.
None of the available information reports that Coday testified as to how he acquired the gun. That is a significance difference between the two cases. Both serve as good examples for attorneys to know what is required to get a verdict against gun shops. They also send a powerful message to gun shop owners to make sure they conduct business legally.