Judge Dismisses Suit Over Kentucky Firefighter Who Shot Prisoner

A lawsuit that accused a Kentucky firefighter of wrongfully shooting and killing a prisoner while the man was struggling for control of a police officer’s weapon, has been dismissed.

Ali Sawaf, the father of Mark S. Sawaf, filed suit last year claiming that Lexington Fire Department Captain Brad Dobrzynski was wrong for shooting his son on August 11, 2016. At the time, Mark Sawaf was in-custody, and cooperating with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as part of a plea agreement to locate explosive booby traps he had placed around trail cameras to scare-off thieves. Sawaf was handcuffed and shackled at the time.

Lexington Police Officer Matt Greathouse, Captain Dobrzynski, and an ATF agent accompanied Sawaf to the area when Sawaf made a grab for Greathouse’s gun. A life and death struggle ensued, leading Greathouse to yell to Captain Dobrzynski: “he’s got my gun, he’s got my gun, shoot, shoot.” Captain Dobrzynski, who served as a medic on the ATF task force, was armed and fired one shot to Sawaf’s head killing him.

The suit alleged wrongful death, excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, due process violations, negligence and paramedic malpractice. The suit also alleged a violation of Sawaf’s 6th Amendment Right to Counsel.

On September 28, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph M. Hood dismissed the suit based on several factors, including a failure of Ali Sawaf to follow the requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act, and improperly suing federal actors under 42 USC §1983, which is reserved for state actors. According to the decision, because Captain Dobrzynski and Officer Greathouse were serving on the ATF task force, they were considered to be federal actors.

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

Congratulations to Captain Dobrzynski who no doubt has gone through hell, after saving the life of a police officer.

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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