On December 12, 2011, Indianapolis Metro Police Officer Dwayne “Dewey” Runnels was shot after pulling over a red Chevrolet Impala linked to a shooting and robbery earlier that day. When Officer Runnels pulled up behind the car in an apartment complex parking lot, 23-year-old felon Demetrius Martin emerged and opened fire with a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, striking Officer Runnels in the leg. Martin was killed by return fire from Officer Runnels, who made a full recovery and has returned to duty. According to the ATF, Martin obtained his gun through a straw purchase at KS&E Sports carried out by his acquaintance Tarus Blackburn, Jr.
The defendants moved to dismiss the case because of an Indiana law which defendants argued gave them immunity from liability for any cases in which a gun they sold was used in a criminal shooting. The trial judge denied the defendants’ motion, and the defendants immediately appealed the ruling. Brady attorneys briefed and argued the appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals, which issued a ruling in Officer Runnels’ favor. The defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court of Indiana.
In a precedent-setting case brought by the Brady Center and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer on behalf of a police officer shot with a straw-purchased gun, the Supreme Court of Indiana has rejected gun industry arguments that Indiana law grants them total immunity from civil liability. In Runnels v. KS&E Sports, the Court unanimously held that Officer Runnels was entitled to bring his public nuisance claim and seek court-ordered changes in the business practices of the gun store that sold the gun used to shoot him in 2011. Officer Runnels’ public nuisance claim will now proceed in the trial court in Indianapolis.
However, by a 3-2 vote the Court held that the Indiana law bars gun violence victims from recovering monetary damages against gun dealers when guns are used in crime, even if the gun dealer violates gun laws. That decision makes Indiana’s law the most sweeping gun industry protection law in the nation.
Representing Officer Runnels with the Brady Center are Roger Pardieck of the Pardieck Law Firm, and Michael Schissel, and a team of attorneys with Arnold & Porter LLP in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Read the press release announcing the filing of the suit in December 2013: Brady Center Files Lawsuit against Gun Dealer on Behalf of Police Officer Shot with Straw Purchased Gun.
Read the press release announcing the Indiana Appeals Court victory in March 2016: Indiana Court Deals Historic Blow to Gun Lobby, Accepts Brady Center Arguments on Gun Dealer Liability.