Deadlines imposed in lawsuit against DCSO


Deadlines have been set in the ongoing legal battle between the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and the widow of a Kingston Township man who was shot and killed by deputies last year after a standoff on Kilbourne Road.

In June, Deanna Puskas, the widow of Brian Puskas, 47, filed a lawsuit against the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and alleged that three DCSO deputies did not follow the office’s policies last year when they responded to a 911 call at her home on Kilbourne Road.

According to authorities, on the morning of June 6, 2018, Brian Puskas returned home from work early and began acting erratic, at which point Deanna called family and law enforcement. Deanna Puskas told dispatchers that her husband was acting strangely, throwing things, and at one point threatened to kill her. In the 911 call, Deanna Puskas tells dispatchers that there are numerous firearms in the home.

A number of law enforcement officials, including Deputy Zachary Swick, Deputy Troy Gibson, and Sgt. Robert Spring, arrived on scene and attempted to talk to Brian Puskas. Gibson, one of the county’s K-9 handlers, released his K-9, Cash, to bite and subdue Puskas, but the dog instead ran to a shirt that Puskas had just thrown to the ground. The lawsuit states Puskas ran from the dog around a tree, reached into a soft gun case to retrieve a handgun and was subsequently shot by Swick, Gibson and Spring.

He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital where he died from his wounds later that day. He had no criminal history.

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted an investigation after the shooting and determined the actions were justified.

On June 6, Deanna Puskas filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court’s South District of Ohio Eastern Division, alleging that the deputies caused the wrongful death of Brian Puskas and intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress on Brian and Deanna Puskas.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that deputies did not follow their standard protocol to deescalate the situation, and instead, escalated it, which resulted in Brian Puskas being killed.

The lawsuit names Swick, Gibson, Spring, and Delaware County as defendants and asks that the court allow the case to be tried before a jury. In the lawsuit, Deanna Puskas’ attorney asks the court for a variety of types of relief, including compensatory damages for her and punitive damages against Swick, Gibson and Spring.

The attorneys representing the sheriff’s office responded to the lawsuit last month and said the deputies acted in accordance with the law and are entitled to immunity.

During a meeting held in August at the court, the attorneys for both parties asked the case to be tried before a jury.

Last month, Chief United States Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Preston Deavers filed an order setting a schedule for the case. The judge ordered that all discovery be completed by June 14, 2020; that all dispositive motions be filed by July 14, 2020; and she ordered that expert reports must be prepared by May 14, 2020.

The court also ordered that Deanna Puskas make a settlement demand by Nov. 18 and ordered the county to respond by Dec. 18.

A trial date was not set.

The three deputies were placed on administrative leave during the investigation but later returned to active duty. Spring retired in February. Additionally, Swick is no longer a deputy with a sheriff’s office.

Protective orders have been agreed to for the three deputies. The orders prevent the release of certain private information about the men.

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG

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