Sara L. Ellis
Sara L. Ellis

A U.S. District Court judge denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a suit brought by the family of a man fatally shot by police in 2017.

On March 29, 2017, Stockton police officer Sean Patridge fatally shot Troy J. Boyle while investigating a suspicious activity call in the northwest Illinois town.

Boyle’s father, Owen Patrick Boyle was named the administrator of his son’s estate and sued Patridge as well as the village of Stockton for wrongful death and a violation of his son’s Fourth Amendment rights by excessive use of force.

U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed Patridge’s motion for summary judgment in the case since multiple witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the events leading up to the shooting.

Patridge was called to the scene at around 11:30 a.m. after a local resident reported a “suspicious vehicle parked on a private driveway belonging to Stockton Township with three individuals walking to and from the vehicle.”

Boyle’s father states in his complaint that the vehicle was stopped and the passengers were walking about because “the vehicle had suffered a flat tire.”

Patridge stopped one of the individuals, Timothy Hess, while Boyle and the third individual, Anna Kaiden, walked toward a salt shed. Hess refused to give Patridge his real name and attempted to walk away. Patridge grabbed Hess’ arm to place him in handcuffs as Patridge’s backup, Jo Daviess County Deputy Sheriff Chad Heidenreich arrived on the scene. As Patridge handcuffed Hess, Heidenreich alerted Patridge to Boyle who was approaching from behind the shed.

At this point, the witness accounts begin to differ. Patridge and Heidenreich testified that Boyle’s right arm was concealed behind his back as he approached and that they perceived it as threatening.

Patridge alleges that he left Hess with Heidenreich and when Boyle approached, asked Boyle “what is going on?” and ordered him to show his hands. Heidenreich and Patridge testified that Boyle did not comply and continued walking, causing Patridge to draw his gun in “fear for his life” because he “thought Boyle had a weapon behind his back.”

Both officers testified that upon further command to put his hands up Boyle raised his right arm and pointed it “in a shooting stance” toward the officers and Hess. Patridge and Heidenreich both reported that they “perceived Boyle to point a gun or other weapon at them.”

A township employee who witnessed the incident from a building on the property noted that he saw Boyle approach the officers, “make a motion as if he was getting something out of his trousers” and get “into a shooting stance.” Though the witness said he “did not observe a weapon.”

Patridge fired several shots at Boyle. Hess, who had had his back to Boyle and Patridge, testified that he turned when the shots were fired and saw that Boyle had his arm extended toward Patridge. Heidenreich then “grabbed Hess and pushed him behind his squad car to take cover.”

After the initial shots, Boyle ran toward a sand pile outside the shed, allegedly still pointing his arm toward Patridge. Patridge reported that he fired once more while “retreating” to take cover behind his squad car, then fired a final shot before “he observed Boyle slump onto his back.”

Patridge fired eight shots total, two of which struck Boyle in the chest. No weapon was recovered near Boyle’s body. An ambulance driver reported finding a metal flashlight at the scene.

An autopsy showed that Boyle died from a bullet wound to the chest, which was likely fired in the first round of shots. It also showed that he had methamphetamine in his bloodstream at the time of the shooting in a concentration “between five and [20] times more than documented levels that may cause adverse behavior patterns, including loss of behavioral control.”

The third person initially reported for suspicious activity, Kaiden, gave a different account of events. Kaiden testified that she had been behind the shed with Boyle, who had told her to keep down. Although she could not see him once he was in front of the shed, Kaiden said she “did not recall seeing anything in Boyle’s hands” though she noted that he had “his hand out and toward his shoulders at a [90]-degree angle.”

Kaiden alleges that given how soon she heard the gunshots after Boyle rounded the corner of the shed, she did not think Boyle would have had time to put something in his hands before the second set of shots. She also recalled hearing officers “yelling ‘come out’ and ‘put your hands up’ between the two sets of gunfire, with the second set occurring seconds after the commands.”

Patridge argued that he is entitled to summary judgment on the excessive force claim because qualified immunity “shields from liability defendants who act in ways they reasonably believe to be lawful.”

According to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “when an officer reasonably believes an assailant’s actions place ‘him, his partner or those in the immediate vicinity in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, the officer can reasonably exercise the use of deadly force.” In these circumstances, reasonableness is evaluated from “the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene without 20/20 hindsight.”

Ellis wrote that “Were this [Patridge’s] the only possible version of the events in the record, the court would agree that the jury could only come to the conclusion that a reasonable officer would have believed Boyle posed a threat so as to make the use of deadly force reasonable… but the record includes another version of the incident, which creates disputes of the fact that a jury must resolve.”

Patridge argues that “the court should not give weight to Kaiden’s testimony” because her location behind the shed limited her view of the events. However, Ellis wrote that “only a jury can consider how her line of sight affects her testimony.”

“Because the [a]dministrator’s [Owen Boyle’s] version of the facts reasonably lays out a constitutional violation, while Patridge’s does not, the competing narratives prevent the court from accurately judging the totality of the circumstances and instead require the court to submit this issue to a jury,” Ellis wrote. She also added, “Summary judgment is often inappropriate in excessive-force cases.”

Since the Fourth Amendment claim survived the motion for summary judgment, so to was the request for summary judgment motion on the wrongful-death and survival statute claim.

Boyle’s father is demanding $1 million in compensation for his son’s estate, which would go to his next of kin including his two children.

The Boyle family is represented by Rene Hernandez with the Law Office of Rene Hernandez in Rockford.

Patridge and the village of Stockton are represented by Michael D. Bersani and Tony Salvatore Fioretti of Hervas, Condon & Bersani P.C. in Itasca. The village is named as a defendant solely for indemnification purposes.

Neither side’s lawyers responded to requests for comment.

This case is Boyle v. Village of Stockton, et al. No. 3:17-cv-50121.