Note: This story was last updated at 9:15 a.m. Jan. 17.
The family of a man fatally shot by Oak Ridge police after he allegedly threatened officers with a knife and stabbed a police dog has withdrawn a lawsuit against the city, municipal officials, and four police officers.
The voluntary withdrawal of the lawsuit, a stipulation of dismissal, was filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Nov. 16.
The plaintiffsâ€”the estate of Rodney Eugene Harris, 48, and his wife, Patricia Harrisâ€”have one year to refile the civil lawsuit, which sought an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
A Feb. 4 trial had been scheduled before Senior U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell.
Rodney Eugene Harris wasÂ fatally shot on Hillside Road on July 18, 2010, after he refused to drop a large knife, was unaffected by a Taser, stabbed a police dog, and â€œexhibited the knife toward an officer,â€ Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark said in a news release two months after the shooting.
The civil lawsuit against Oak Ridge and city officials alleged excessive force had been used, and it said the actions of the four police officersâ€”Christopher Ray Carden, Roy James Heinz, Dustin David Henderson, and John Boyd Thomas Jr.â€”constituted assault and battery, outrageous conduct, and wrongful death. It said Harris was backing away from the officers and the police dog during the entire incident, and the police shot without warning.
The city denied those allegations. In its response to the lawsuit, the city and its officials and officers said Harris waved a knife at the officers, refused to drop it, was shot with a Taser without an obvious effect, stabbed K-9 officer Zoej, and raised the knife again when he stepped toward Henderson.
The lawsuit said Harris had severe mental illness, and the police “failed to use practices to calm mentally disturbed citizens, but rather initiated contact with forceful conduct … intentionally provoking a confrontational situation.” The city denied that charge.
Police said Harris had earlier driven his pickup truck into Melton Hill Lake near the Oak Ridge Marina in an apparent suicide attempt. But Clark said officers responding the day of the shooting to what started as a check on someone allegedly walking in the middle of the road and talking to himself did not know whether Harris had mental health issues.
“Therefore, they made their decisions based only on what they observed on the scene with Mr. Harris,” Clark said.
The DA said he reviewed the results of an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and found the officers committed no crime.
“In this case, the threatening use of the knife by Mr. Harris caused the use of lethal force,” Clark said.
A few days after the shooting, former Oak Ridge Police Chief David Beams said Harris presented an imminent threat, holding a large butcher knife overhead in a threatening manner, and the officers responded appropriately.
Michael W. Ritter, an attorney for Harrisâ€™ estate and wife, declined comment Tuesday and said he was unable to reach Patricia Harris to find out if she wanted to talk to a reporter on Wednesday.
Benjamin K. Lauderback, attorney for city officials and the police officers, did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit was originally filed in Anderson County Circuit Court in July 2011, and it was removed to U.S. District Court in August 2011. Besides the four officers, it named as plaintiffs Beams;Â the City of Oak Ridge; former, current, and interim city managers Mark Watson, Gary Cinder, and Jim O’Connor; and Alan Massengill, who is now deputy police chief.