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YOUNGSTOWN Death was justified, jury says

By Bob Jackson

Saturday, January 31, 2004

The deceased man's family is considering an appeal.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A jury took 90 minutes to decide that a city policeman did not use excessive force when he shot and killed a man in 1995.
"It's devastating," Atty. Mark S. Colucci said of the verdict. "But you go on."
Colucci, who represents the estate of 35-year-old Bryan Houlihan, said he is considering an appeal.
Houlihan's estate filed a civil lawsuit in 1996 in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against the city and its police department. The suit said Patrolman David Ellis used excessive force when he shot and killed Houlihan after a long, high-speed chase.
Colucci said the family is disappointed at the verdict, but was glad just to finally have its day in court after an eight-year wait.
"It's very difficult to get a jury verdict against authority figures, like policemen or soldiers," Colucci said.
Visiting Judge Stephen Yarbrough said afterward that jurors were emotionally distraught from deliberating and they did not wish to be interviewed.
"I think there was ample evidence for the jury to reach the decision that it did," said Atty. W. Scott Fowler, who represented the city.
What happened
Police had gone to Forum Health Northside Medical Center looking for Houlihan in November 1995 because he was a suspect in several convenience store robberies. Police had heard Houlihan was going to get clothes from his mother, who worked there, and leave town.
When officers approached Houlihan's car to arrest him, he accelerated, crashed through a gate and led them on a chase that ended when he wrecked his car at Hopkins and Truesdale roads in Boardman Township.
Houlihan got out of his car and started to run away. Ellis, with his gun drawn, said he told Houlihan to stop. He said Houlihan appeared to be reaching for a gun as he spun toward him, which is why he fired.
The shooting was investigated by the police department's internal affairs unit and the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office, both of which deemed it justifiable.