Headline Pimping: Swat Medic’s Shooting of Handcuffed Prisoner Prompts Lawsuit

“A man is shot and killed by a firefighter while handcuffed in the woods.” WOW… if that lead-in to TV news coverage doesn’t get your attention. Don’t you love the news media? Let’s pimp this story for all its worth!

I suppose that headline is a lot more dramatic than saying: The family of a prisoner who was shot by a swat medic as he was wrestling for control of a police officer’s gun has filed suit against the medic, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, and the officers involved.

The suit was filed yesterday in US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky by Ali Sawaf, the father of Mark S. Sawaf, alleging wrongful death, excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, due process violations, negligence and paramedic malpractice. The suit also alleges a violation of Mark Sawaf’s 6th Amendment Right to Counsel.

The incident occurred on August 11, 2016 as Mark Sawaf, an inmate, was helping police find explosive booby traps he had placed around trail cameras to scare-off thieves. Sawaf was cooperating as part of his plea agreement on charges that his booby-trap explosions had injured several others. Sawaf was handcuffed and shackled accompanied by Lexington Police Officer Matt Greathouse, Lexington Fire Captain Brad Dobrzynski, and an ATF agent.

At approximately 6:45pm Sawaf made a grab for Greathouse’s gun, leading to a struggle. At one point during the struggle, Greathouse yelled to Captain Dobrzynski: “he’s got my gun, he’s got my gun, shoot, shoot.” One shot killed Sawaf.

According to the complaint:

  • On the date of the incident, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI’s involvement with the special detail was strictly as a medic.
  • The date of the incident would mark the very first time ever in his career Defendant DOBRZYNSKI had participated in an out of town task force special detail.
  • On the date of the incident, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI had no prior military service.
  • On the date of the incident, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI, had no prior law enforcement experience and had only recently graduated from the Lexington Police academy in May of 2016.
  • On August 10, 2016, the date before the incident, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI worked his shift from 7a.m. to 11:00p.m. (16 hours), then was called to a fire at 11:00p.m. at which time he worked another four and a half to five hours before returning home and going to bed around 3:30a.m. to 4:00a.m on August 11, 2016. At that point he had worked approximately 20 ½  to 21 hours.
  • On August 11, 2016, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI began his day at 6:45 a.m. at which point he worked another 12 consecutive hours. By 6:45p.m. on August 11, 2016, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI had worked approximately 32 ½ hours of the last 35 ½ hours. Having only 2.5 to three hours sleep during that time.
  • At 6:45p.m., on August 11, 2016, as MARK S. SAWAF lay on the ground on his left side in a fetal position, with his hands cuffed in front of him and those cuffs further attached to a belly chain which was secured around his waist, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI stood over top of MARKS S. SAWAF and from a distance of four to five feet then shot MARK S. SAWAF in the top (back) of the head with his (DOBRZYNSKI’ S) .40 caliber service pistol.
  • Defendant DOBRZYNSKI later related to KSP Sergeant Jason Joseph that at the sound of the shot, Defendant GREATHOUSE’S immediate verbal response was “Fuck, that was loud!”
  • Defendant GREATHOUSE then apathetically quipped ”Nice shot”.
  • That as a medic, Defendant DOBRZYNSKI had an absolute duty to render aid to MARK S. SAWAF.
  • That on or about August 11, 2016, and after such time as Defendant DOBRZYNSKI had shot MARK S. SAWAF in the back of the head, that MARK S. SAWAF became a patient of defendant DOBRZYNSKI’s for the purposes of medical services, examinations, treatments, diagnoses and medical care as his condition required.
  • The failure of Defendant DOBRZYNSKI in rendering those medical services, examinations, treatments, diagnoses and medical care for Plaintiff’s decedent, MARK S. SAWAF, was a substantial factor in causing personal injury to and the death of MARK S. SAWAF.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Sawaf v Lexington-Fayette

WDRB 41 Louisville News

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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