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Parents Sue Fort Madison, Police over Son's Death

Jul 20, 2016

The parents of a man shot and killed by a Fort Madison police officer in August 2014 filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming it violated the constitutional rights of their son, Ryan Swearingen, 29, of Clinton, Iowa.

Ivan and Ronda Swearingen filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Davenport. Along with the city, officers Karl Judd and James Carle are also named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Ryan Swearingen was visiting his parents at their home at 1527 Avenue E in Fort Madison.

“Sometime after 1:00 a.m. on August 3, 2014, Ryan Swearingen was purportedly observed in an area near the 1400 and 1500 block of Avenue E in Fort Madison puncturing tires of vehicles parked in that area. A resident in that vicinity who at the time lived with Defendant [James] Carle spoke with Carle by telephone, who at the time was on duty as a uniformed Fort Madison police officer.”

The lawsuit states that Carle chased Swearingen after allegedly seeing Swearingen using a knife to puncture tires. Swearingen made it to his parents’ home, locking the back door behind him.

Several officers arrived at the home, including Carle and Judd. A pair of unidentified officers met with Swearingen’s parents after entering the home through the front door.

Swearingen’s parents claim in their lawsuit that Carle and Judd moved to the back of their home.

“While stationed at the back door of the Swearingen residence, Defendant Carle kicked the back door of the Plaintiff’s home in an unsuccessful effort to open the door. While Defendants Carle and Judd were at the back door, they observed Ivan Swearingen in the kitchen of the home and also saw Ryan Swearingen walk to a utility room near the back door of the residence.”

Ivan Swearingen purportedly asked the officers for a search warrant, which they were not able to produce. And they did not have an arrest warrant for his son.

“Police officers broke the window of the back door to unlock the door. Defendants Carle and Judd drew their service pistols and entered the Swearingen residence… As Defendants Judd and Carle entered the laundry area inside the back door at the Swearingen residence, Defendant Judd allegedly observed Ryan Swearingen in a closet and purportedly observed Ryan Swearingen holding a knife. Without asking Ryan Swearingen to disarm himself, or without using any nonlethal intervention, Defendant Judd short Ryan Swearingen three times.”

Ivan and Ronda Swearingen are seeking financial compensation for the “defendants’ unconstitutional and unjustified conduct.” A specific amount is not provided in the lawsuit.

The Iowa Attorney General's Office declared Karl Judd was legally justified to use deadly force in the shooting death of Ryan Swearingen.