U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Cop Justified in Killing Teen in Pizzaria Robbery

Four young men walked into a pizza parlor to rob it; one pulled a gun on the manager.

Frank Pobjecky, a customer waiting there for his order, was an armed, off-duty officer. What happened next was like a scene from a Dirty Harry movie.

Unfortunately for one of the robbers, it was not a movie. That was the day he died, and now his family's lawsuit for excessive force is over, too.

Unarmed Teen

In Horton v. Pobjecky, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal said the officer justifiably shot and killed 16-year-old Michael DeAngelo Sago, Jr. He was unarmed at the time.

"Pobjecky reasonably assumed the three other assailants, including Michael, might be armed," wrote Judge Daniel Manion for the unanimous court.

The three-judge panel said the officer did not know, and had no reasonable way to know, that Sago didn't have a gun.

In the shoot-out, the pizza manager managed to take one robber's weapon. Pobjecky jumped in and tried to grab another gun in the fracas, then shot all of the assailants.

"Easy Concealment"

In a 23-page decision, the appeals court said that judges should be careful "not to second guess the actions of police officers in the heat of the moment."

At Marie's Pizza that day in 2011, the manager was not going to give up without a fight. "Get the hell out of here, you're not getting any of my f'ing money," he yelled.

That started forty seconds of wrestling, shooting and mayhem. When it was over, Sago was dead.

"No reasonable jury could find Pobjecky's belief that Michael might be armed was unreasonable," the Seventh Circuit said, affirming dismissal of the complaint. "Michael participated in an armed robbery while wearing a sweatshirt allowing easy concealment of a gun."

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