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Law enforcement officers thought they saw a handgun. Thirty shots later they discovered the man was holding a cellphone.

Widow sues over death of husband

The widow of a suicidal West Palm Beach man who was killed in a fusillade of police gunfire last year has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit charging Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and four officers with violating the slain man’s civil rights.

John Garczynski, 37, was killed in March 2005 after being hit with 10 of about 30 rounds fired by three sheriff’s deputies and a Boca Raton officer as he sat in his parked car outside a Boca Raton apartment building.

Garczynski, an energy trader for Florida Power & Light Co., had threatened suicide earlier in the evening and was talking to his estranged wife, Leigh, on a cell phone when he was shot and killed.

Barry Krischer, Palm Beach County state attorney, ruled the death a justifiable homicide, calling Garczynski’s death “yet another suicide by cop.” The officers said they feared for their lives after they broke out Garczynski’s car windows and saw him turn toward them.

At the time, at least one officer claimed he saw Garczynski with a gun in his hand.

Krischer remarked in his finding that law officers needed more training in handling suicidal subjects, saying that in the Garczynski case, “responding in force turned control of the situation over to the deceased.”

The primary purpose of responding to a call concerning a person with suicidal thoughts is to keep the person alive. Somehow, some way the responders have to avoid killing him in a barrage of bullets.

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