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Trial term set in police shooting lawsuit

Jason Harley Kloepfer stands at the door with his hands up one second before officers fired. Photo from Kloepfer security video Jason Harley Kloepfer stands at the door with his hands up one second before officers fired. Photo from Kloepfer security video

A man who was severely injured in a 2022 police shooting at his home in Cherokee County won’t see a resolution to his civil suit until August 2025 at the earliest, according to a recent filing in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. 

The lawsuit, filed in June 2023, named 31 defendants representing the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Cherokee Indian Police Department. A December ruling  whittled that list of defendants down to 29 people or entities who are together facing more than 200 claims that could be worth millions of dollars.

On Feb. 8, U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf issued a scheduling order that lays out a timeline toward the lawsuit’s conclusion. Reports from expert witnesses are due on Aug. 30 for the plaintiffs and Oct. 25 for the defendants, with discovery to be complete by Feb. 4, 2025, and mediation by Feb. 21, 2025.

Should the case go to trial, it’s expected to take eight days to adjudicate and is scheduled for the first available session beginning on or after Aug. 4, 2025.

The shooting, which took place on Dec. 13, 2022, occurred after a neighbor called 911 claiming she was concerned that Kloepfer had hurt his wife, Alison Mahler, and threatened the whole neighborhood. Citing a potential hostage situation, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from the Cherokee Indian Police Department’s SWAT team, which arrived in the early morning hours. Despite the CCSO’s initial statement to the contrary, home security video shows Kloepfer coming to the door with his hands up, in compliance with police orders. However, as he stood there, three CIPD officers fired their weapons at him, severely injuring him and narrowly missing Mahler. In their responses to the complaint, the officers who fired claimed they did so because they believed the police robot Kloepfer held above his head in his right hand — a robot the police had sent inside to assess the scene — to be a gun.

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The Cherokee County Courthouse also houses most county administrative offices in downtown Murphy. Holly Kays photo

The discovery process will involve a plethora of people and documents, including information that would typically remain confidential. Metcalf issued an order allowing investigative reports as well as personnel records of both CCSO and EBCI defendants to be produced as part of the discovery process — but in a manner that respects their confidentiality. Such material will be filed under seal, and absent a court order to the contrary, it may not be disclosed to members of the general public.

With the shooting now more than a year in the rearview, the civil process is well underway. However, as of yet the only criminal case stemming from the incident has been the charges that were initially filed against Kloepfer before District Attorney Ashley Welch dropped them following release of home security video showing the sequence of events. A State Bureau of Investigation probe has been completed, and the resulting report is on the desk of Special Prosecutor Lance Sigmon, who will determine whether any criminal charges are warranted against CCSO and EBCI personnel.

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