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Ex-Hells Angel, police don’t want to go to trial

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – A former Hells Angels member and the police officials he’s suing for shooting him and killing his dog both want a judge to skip taking their case to trial.

The lawyer for Michael Wayne Coffelt, who was shot during what was later ruled an illegal raid, filed a motion for summary judgment in the case last week. If U.S. District Judge John Sedwick rules in Coffelt’s favor, he’ll determine how much money in damages to award Coffelt at a later court date.

But the defendants in the case, who include Glendale police, the officer who shot Coffelt and the officer who shot and killed Coffelt’s dog, filed a motion for summary judgment the same day.

If Sedwick rules in their favor, Coffelt will have lost the case.

Sedwick could deny both motions and the case could move to trial.

The lawsuit stems from a raid in 2003, when Glendale and Phoenix police executed a search warrant at a Hells Angels clubhouse in Cave Creek. Coffelt, who was a prospective member of the motorcycle gang at the time, was the only one in the house and was there to guard it.

Agents knocked on a window, but before Coffelt could open the door, they broke a second window and tossed in a diversionary grenade. Coffelt was armed with a handgun when he opened the door, just as the grenade went off.

Officer Laura Beeler, who claimed Coffelt aimed and fired at her, shot her rifle at Coffelt six times, hitting him once in the hip. Investigators later determined Coffelt never fired.

In 2004, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Wilkinson described the raid as an “attack” and said it was understandable that Coffelt would answer the door at 4:42 in the morning with a gun. He also ruled that the raid was illegal.

Coffelt had been arrested on a charge of aggravated assault on a police officer, but that case was dropped because he never fired his gun. Coffelt has not been accused or convicted of any other crimes in relation to the case.

In a lawsuit against Glendale and Phoenix police, Beeler and Officer J. Carlo, who shot and killed Coffelt’s Rottweiler, “Buster,” in the backyard, Coffelt’s attorney argues police used unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive force that caused Coffelt to suffer permanent injuries, emotional distress and mental anguish.

Beeler and Carlo are officers with the Glendale Police Department.

Las Vegas attorney Richard Schonfeld said Coffelt had to quit the Hells Angels and stop riding motorcycles because of his injuries. He said his client, a Vietnam War veteran, also has to walk with a cane. He declined to allow Coffelt to comment on the case, and efforts to reach Coffelt independently were unsuccessful.

Michele Iafrate, who represents the police in the lawsuit, tried to explain why Beeler shot Coffelt that early July morning.

“From Detective Beeler’s perspective, plaintiff was an armed and dangerous guard that was a member of a violent outlaw motorcycle gang with a history of resistance to the police,” Iafrate wrote in her motion for summary judgment. “Detective Beeler used reasonable force in immediately neutralizing what she reasonably perceived was a deadly threat.”

Iafrate declined further comment.

The raid was part of a 2003 federal sweep that targeted Hells Angels members in California, Nevada, Arizona and Alaska. In Arizona, hundreds of officers arrested 30 suspects on charges of murder-for-hire, drug trafficking and distributing firearms and bomb-making materials.

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