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Suit Alleges Excessive Police Force in Ala. Suspect's Shooting Death

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - A federal lawsuit alleges authorities used excessive force when deputies shot and killed suspected bootlegger James Hulett and abused his 63-year-old wife by forcing her to crawl on her belly while uttering a racial slur about her.

June Hulett, who is white, sued two Morgan County sheriff's deputies and other authorities involved in the June 30, 2002 raid that killed her husband, who was black. She requested a jury trial.

The Morgan County Commission on Monday approved paying a $2,600 deductible to Trident Insurance Services toward the legal claim. Trident attorney George Royer Jr. of Decatur represents the deputies in the lawsuit. He did not return a phone message Friday for comment on the allegations.

June Hulett's attorney, Sherryl Snodgrass-Caffey, filed the suit in U.S. District Court against deputies George Rutherford and Jim England, nine Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control officers, a Decatur police officer and the ABC Board.

A county grand jury did not indict any of the officers involved in the shooting, according to reports.

Hulett, 53, was shot at his home in Decatur during a raid for illegal alcohol sales, according to reports.

Authorities reportedly claimed that Hulett pulled a gun and the officers shot him. The lawsuit states that Hulett was unarmed at the time he was shot.

The claim further states that when officers burst into the victim's home without announcing themselves, it startled Hulett because someone had invaded his home a year earlier.

June Hulett claims a pistol described by officers was fired after her husband had been shot several times and while he lay dying on the floor.

"It was shot in a direction opposite the position of any officer and therefore not at any officer and did not pose an immediate threat to the life of any officer," the suit says.

Witnesses said the officers kept Hulett handcuffed and would not remove the cuffs for paramedics to properly treat him after he had been shot multiple times.

"For this guy, who was not responding, it was kind of stupid," said paramedic Kris Reisz.

His report stated that law enforcement officers refused to remove the handcuffs. A forensic report stated that Hulett's body had 13 bullet holes.

Reports state that the officers were in civilian clothes and one agent had been to Hulett's home earlier that day to buy beer and a side door was always open.

Besides Hulett's shooting, the lawsuit states that the officers abused his wife.

"They instructed Mrs. Hulett, who was sitting on the porch, to get down on her hands and knees but she was experiencing difficulties due to infirmities caused by her age of 63," the suit says.

One of the officers then called her a racial slur and instructed her to get all the way down and to crawl on her belly, the suit says.

"As she was crawling toward the steps, one of the officers grabbed her and dragged her down the steps onto the graveled yard. They handcuffed her and placed her near the van," the suit says.

June Hulett later pleaded guilty to selling alcohol without a license last year. She received a 45-day jail sentence, and a judge suspended it and placed her on probation for one year, her lawyer says.

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