Grandville man shot with Taser as his house burns settles excessive force lawsuit

Police settle taser case in Grandville

GRANDVILLE, MICH. (WZZM) - A homeowner shot twice with a Taser as his home burned has settled an excessive force lawsuit with the city of Grandville for $75,000, the man’s attorney said Wednesday.

“His injuries were not that significant, but the insult and offensiveness of what happened were tremendous,’’ attorney Keary W. Sawyer said. “The settlement reflects the wrongfulness of the act.’’

Robert W. Burt Jr. was trying to round up several pet cats that fled into the yard and nearby woods during the 2014 fire at his home on Yellowstone Drive SW.

When Grandville Police Sgt. Kenneth C. Howland told him to get on the other side of yellow police tape strung along the west side of Burt’s yard, he refused. Burt told the officer he was the homeowner and “had every right to be in his yard,’’ the suit claims.

Burt, then 63, was struck twice in the back with an electronic stun gun, put in handcuffs and taken to Kent County Jail.

He was charged with disobeying and obstructing a police officer, but those charges were later dismissed.

Sawyer said the blaze was largely extinguished and firefighters were putting out hotspots when the confrontation ensued.

“He did nothing to interfere,’’ Sawyer said. “Any allegation that he interfered is simply not true. It really was offensive that he was Tasered not once, but twice in the back and then muscled around by a couple of police officers.’’

Attorney Gus Morris, who represented the city, called the settlement a fair resolution for all parties involved.

“It was a case with uncertainty on both sides,’’ Morris said. “Based on the costs of going forward, we placed an offer on the table and the case was resolved.’’

Under the settlement, the city and its police officer made no admissions of wrongdoing, Morris said.

The June 2, 2014 fire was discovered shortly before 9 p.m. at the Burt family home on Yellowstone Drive SW east of Wilson Avenue.

Burt was working in his garden when he noticed smoke coming from the roof. He alerted his wife and daughter and his wife called 911.

When the Grandville Fire Department arrived, smoke and flames were coming through the roof. Grandville was assisted by crews from Wyoming and spent four hours battling the fire.

About 2 a.m. on June 3, Burt started searching for missing cats in the wood line west of his yard. While he was in the wooded area, Howland strung up yellow police tape around the perimeter, blocking Burt's re-entry into the yard, the lawsuit says.

Burt lifted up the yellow tape to duck back into his yard and was confronted by Howland, who told him to “stay behind the tape.’’

As Burt began walking away along the west edge of the yard, the officer told him, “Stop or I’ll Tase you,’’ the lawsuit claims.

The officer then pulled a Taser from his holster and discharged the weapon, striking Burt in the back. Burt dropped to the ground and was trying to push himself up when he was struck a second time, according to the lawsuit.

© 2018 WZZM-TV


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