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Appeal filed: Jury trial sought by Tucker family

MARQUETTE — The family of an Ishpeming Township man who was fatally shot in his home by a Marquette County Sheriff’s deputy in 2016 is appealing a federal judge’s decision to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit.

“Whether (Clifford) Tucker posed an immediate threat of serious harm to the deputy is a question that can only be decided by a jury,” an attorney for the victim’s son, Scott Tucker, said in a statement.

On Aug. 28, United States District Court Judge Paul Maloney entered a summary judgment to terminate the suit, which names Marquette County and Marquette County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Romback in the fatal shooting of Clifford Tucker on June 9, 2016.

Romback had been dispatched to the Ishpeming Township residence in response to a report that Tucker had made suicidal statements during a call to the hospital earlier that day. Tucker reportedly stated that he was in severe pain and was planning to take his own life, according to court documents.

Tucker’s son, Scott Tucker, who brought the lawsuit alleging “unlawful search and excessive force” against Romback, as well as a municipal liability claim against Marquette County, filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit earlier this month.

According to Maloney’s written opinion, Romback did not violate Clifford Tucker’s Fourth Amendment rights because “exigent circumstances existed justifying his entry into the home without a warrant.”

Maloney also noted in his opinion that Tucker posed a “credible threat of serious harm,” because the 68-year-old veteran had picked up a shotgun after Romback followed him to the bedroom.

“Therefore, the decision to use deadly force was reasonable in the tense circumstances of the moment,” Maloney’s opinion states.

In a press release, Scott Tucker and his lawyers said the decision “was beyond the scope of the judge’s role.”

Cynthia Heenan, attorney for the Tucker family, said it is “possible that a jury could find that it was objectively reasonable for an officer in Romback’s shoes to use deadly force. But a reasonable jury could also find that it wasn’t. But in our judicial system, it is the job of the jury to make that determination, not the judge.”

The appeal also seeks to restore the Tucker estate’s claim that the sheriff’s department “failed to adequately train Romback and/or maintain policies to protect people’s constitutional rights.”

Co-counsel Hugh Davis further asserts that Maloney engaged in “impermissible and result-oriented fact-finding.”

No criminal charges were filed in the incident that the lawsuit stems from, according to an April 2019 Mining Journal article. Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese found Romback’s decision to use lethal force against Tucker in self-defense was justified.

When contacted, Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt declined to comment on the case.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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