Trial now underway: Is gun shop liable after two MPD officers were shot & seriously injured?

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WEST MILWAUKEE -- It is a groundbreaking case to determine who is responsible for a shooting in which two Milwaukee police officers were severely injured. The man who pulled the trigger is already behind bars -- but what about the West Milwaukee gun shop that sold the gun?

Badger Guns

Badger Guns

The officers are suing for negligence and want financial compensation from owners of the former Badger Guns store -- and a trial began on Wednesday, September 30th.

The lawsuit contends Badger Guns broke the law by encouraging an illegal straw sale.

The question being considered: Should the gun shop have known that the 18-year-old who got the gun used a straw buyer (a friend who was older with no criminal record) to purchase the gun? Should Badger Guns have allowed this purchase?

"Selling guns is a serious business," Patrick Dunphy, attorney for the officers said.

Dunphy says in June of 2009, the lives of two Milwaukee police officers were changed forever.

Officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch struggle with shooting suspect Julius Burton

Officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch struggle with shooting suspect Julius Burton

Officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch were shot in Milwaukee's south side.

There was a physical confrontation between the two officers and Julius Burton, who opened fire, seriously injuring both officers. Burton shot the officers after they stopped him for riding his bike on the sidewalk.

They survived and are still on the force -- and Burton, who has a history of mental illness, is now serving an 80 year prison sentence.

Officer Graham Kunisch CT scan shown in court

Officer Graham Kunisch CT scan shown in court

In court on Wednesday, Dunphy showed a computer image from a CT scan Officer Kunisch received. He was hit with five bullets. Two pierced the top of his skull, and he lost his eye.

Images of injuries to his partner, Officer Norberg, are too graphic to show on television.

In opening statements as this trial began, Dunphy showed the jury surveillance images of Burton entering Badger Guns a month before the shooting. He came with a friend, Jacob Collins -- paying him $40 to purchase the gun.

A federal form, Dunphy says, asks whether the buyer is purchasing the weapon for himself. At first, Collins said "no," and then changed his answer to "yes." He changed his address as well. Dunphy said the Badger Guns salesman should have asked questions.

Surveillance photo from inside Badger Guns

Surveillance photo from inside Badger Guns

"Who is responsible when a criminal points a gun at point blank range and tries to kill them? Yes the criminal pulled the trigger -- but there needed to be a trigger to pull. That came from the straw buyer," Dunphy said.

The attorney for Badger Guns says the reason Collins changed the answers to questions on the form is because he is dyslexic and the salesman had to help him understand the questions on that form. The attorney added that the seller had no reason to think Collins was deceiving him.

Testimony in this case begins on Thursday, October 1st. First to testify will be the Badger Guns salesman who sold the gun to Collins.

The jury must decide two things: Is Badger Guns liable in this case -- and if so, how much money should they give to these officers.

Surveillance photo from inside Badger Guns

Surveillance photo from inside Badger Guns

Operating under the names Badger Guns, Badger Outdoors, and Badger Guns & Ammo, Badger ranked as the nation’s top dealer of guns traced to crime in several years before its license was revoked by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which regulates gun sellers.

The store is now known as Brew City Shooter's Supply and is still the family business.

15 comments

  • R

    If someone has a clean criminal record, is able to point out the gun they want and has the means to pay for it, and answers all the questions correctly on the ATF form 4473, you cannot legally deny them the sale without facing racial discrimination charges.

    I support law enforcement, but if they truly cared about getting to the bottom of the problem, they’d realize it’s prosecutors and judges who refuse to charge straw purchasers on a federal level, and throw out the sentences for felons carrying guns.

    • Libsareliars

      Your comment makes to much sense. I agree with you 100%.To bad some people cannot have common sense thinking like yours and mine.

    • Fred

      EXACTLY!!! But that’s way to easy. Instead we should just ban all guns so the honest citizen is free of firearms and let the criminals run rampant with the illegal guns they already have…………

    • molon labe

      Good guys don’t do bad things. Bad guys do bad things. Background check = good, what else is there? Gun Control through banning Gun Stores? BS. Just another way to suppress gun owners rights, another way to take away our life, liberty and “freedom” demoralizing and destabilizing America One step at a time:

  • educated one

    Both officer Norberg and officer Kunisch are seeking financial compensation and suing for negligence…
    I CANNOT WAIT FOR MERCEDES TO COMPENSATE ME FOR THEIR NEGLIGENCE WHEN A MERCEDES STRUCK ME AND MY FAMILY… Perhaps we ALL need to start suing all manufacturers any time something bad happens to us….WE are ENTITLED….besides this might stop them from making cars….

    Quick question…. do GUNS or CARS KILL more people each year??? lets try to reduce “senseless” deaths WITH MORE REGULATIONS….

    • Harley Quinn

      Badger Guns isn’t the manufacture Educated One. They are the seller and they continually sold guns to people they knew were not suppose to have weapons. If I were you, I wouldn’t use the name Educated One. It doesn’t suit you too well.

    • mr burnt toast

      Errr… actually federal regulations *have* significantly reduced auto-related deaths and injuries. And one reason that cars are safer is that people can sue car manufacturers. You might not like gun laws, but auto regulation and auto-related lawsuits have saved many, many lives. Maybe your argument should be that guns are not like cars and thus don’t deserve to be regulated to increase public safety.

  • b

    U can’t blame the store..a criminal mind will find a gun .if that’s what he wants..so I can sue the liquor store if a drunk driver crashes into my car..I’m jus saying..

    • mdmtnwmn

      Actually, yes, if you are harmed by a drunk driver, you can sue the liquor store if that person is a minor, obviously drunk, or obviously incompetent. You can also sue a bar, bartender, and private host or hostess. Someone gave your kid alcohol? They are guilty of a crime and also bear civil liability for the harm done to your child and any harm your child caused others when drunk. Everybody needs to take responsibility for their actions, including the enablers.

  • Mel

    This lawsuit is what is WRONG with America today. Like how the Hell are the shop owners SUPPOSED TO KNOW IT’S A STRAW BUYER? Is their some universal sign they are using their name and clean record to purchase for a douchecanoe? Perhaps they should post psychics at the doors and find out that way! Frivolous and ignorantly filed lawsuit. I am surprised at you Dunphy. But not the bone head cops. Maybe people should sue the police department when crimes victimize them, cause it’s their fault for not knowing there was a criminal in the citizens proximity…..Seriously though.

    • educated one

      HARLEY QUINN wrote:
      …They are the seller and they continually sold guns to people they knew were not suppose to have weapons…
      I guess Harley knows best…I guess they “knew” better…I have not seen anything that proves that yet…I am still waiting for the ford dealership to pay for the car they knowingly sold someone who hit me and my family…Statistics prove people WILL have accidents…kinda why they are called accidents.
      In case you liberals cannot read into my sarcasm…I do not think Badger Guns should pay one red cent…

  • Tom

    Typical cop double standards. If tcops hurt someone erroneously they go running to hide behind the 11th admendment but if they get hurt they want to sue AND collect disability!! Dismiss the lawsuit.

  • Bill Freier

    The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on July 29, 2005, by a vote of 65-31. On October 20, 2005, it was passed by the House of Representatives 283 in favor and 144 opposed. It was signed into law on October 26, 2005, by President George W. Bush and became Public Law 109-92. The National Rifle Association thanked President Bush for signing the Act, for which it had lobbied, describing it as, “…the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years into law.”[1]

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