Sinas Dramis Law Firm Obtains $3 Million Settlement for Slain War Veteran
The Sinas Dramis Law Firm has recently obtained a $3 million settlement stemming from the 2005 wrongful shooting death of Ionia County resident Fred Bletz, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Mr. Bletz was shot and killed in his own home on March 4, 2005, by members of the Ionia County Sherriff’s Department, when their failure to follow proper police procedure proved fatal.
On the evening of March 4, 2005, while Fred and his wife Kitti Bletz were fast asleep, Ionia County Sheriff’s deputies Travis Gribble and Brent Denny set out to execute a misdemeanor traffic warrant for the arrest of the Bletz’s son, Zachary. Despite the fact that the officers did not arrive at the Bletz’s home until almost midnight, the officers elected not to turn on the lights of their police cruiser or tap their siren to notify the Bletz family as to their presence as police officers.
When deputies knocked on the door to the Bletz home, they were greeted by Zach Bletz, who voluntarily surrendered to the deputies after being notified by the officers of the purpose of their visit. Despite his voluntary surrender, Zach was sent back into the home to gather his shoes and to quiet the family dog, who was barking loudly.
As Zach reentered the home, Deputies Gribble and Denny followed, entering the dimly lit home with their guns drawn and without providing warning to other individuals that may have been inside. Around this time, Fred Bletz awoke and heard what sounded like intruders in his home. As Fred grabbed his pistol and headed out to investigate the commotion in his home, he spotted two men with guns in the dark and asked “Who are you?” Deputy Denny later testified that the officers never identified themselves as police officers and that Fred Bletz likely would not have been able to identify the men in his home as officers of the law.
Rather than inform Fred Bletz of their status as police officers and their purpose in his home, Deputy Denny shined his high-powered flashlight on Fred Bletz while Deputy Gribble shouted obscenities. As Fred stood blinded, Deputy Gribble saw the gun in Fred Bletz’s hand and fired four rounds into his torso. Fred Bletz immediately fell to the floor, and his wife Kitti, who had been awoken by the commotion, rushed to his side. Inexplicably, the officers then handcuffed Kitti Bletz and forced her to sit in the backseat of a police cruiser for three hours while her husband bled to death on the living room floor. Fred Bletz died at age 56, a victim of police brutality in his own home.
The Bletz family, represented by the attorneys of the Sinas Dramis Law Firm, initiated a civil action in federal court to recover damages resulting from the wrongful death of Fred Bletz and the wrongful detention of Kitti Bletz. The case was handled by firm attorneys George Sinas, Jim Hofer, and Steve Sinas. Constitutional law expert Hugh “Buck” Davis of Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C. also served as co-counsel in the matter. The litigation lasted a number of years as the defendants attempted to assert a defense of qualified immunity. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ultimately denied this defense in a published opinion and remanded the case to the Western District of Michigan for trial. Shortly before trial was set to begin, the Bletz family accepted the defendants’ final settlement offer of $3 million.