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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
June 2, 2003
Contact: DEA S/A David Jacobson
(313) 234-4220

DEA is Vindicated in Civil Lawsuit
Resulting from 1997 Shooting

Detroit, MI- On May 30, 2003, United States District Judge Robert H. Cleland issued a written legal judgement regarding civil tort action Juan-Jose Guerra Morales vs. The United States of America, namely the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Morales had retained attorney Ven Johnson from the law firm of Feiger, Feiger, Kenney and Johnson. Judge Cleland ruled against the plaintiff and in favor of the United States and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

The lawsuit against DEA involved an incident that occurred on December 4, 1997. For the prior two days, Morales and numerous co-conspirators had negotiated with undercover DEA personnel to sell the undercover agents two kilograms of cocaine for $48,000. On December 4, 1997, the conspirators devised a plan to rob the undercover agents at gunpoint and steal the money. During the attempted armed- robbery, suspect Walt Morris was shot and killed by Agents and Juan Morales was severely wounded.

Morales and his attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking millions of dollars in damages. They claimed that DEA personnel used excessive force against Morales. In denying the plaintiffs charge of excessive force, the Finding of Facts and Conclusions of Law cited by Judge Cleland show that in the context of an armed robbery attempt lasting only a few seconds, "Courts cannot ask an officer to hold fire in order to ascertain whether the suspect will, in fact injure or murder the officer. The high number of officer mortalities in recent years illustrate the unreasonableness of such a notion."

"We were always confident that the legal system would respect the actions that Agents took to save their lives and protect the lives of others. We are glad this situation is finally resolved," said Special Agent in Charge Michael Braun of the Detroit Field Division.


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