Officer who challenged Indiana's immunity law for gun stores has died


INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The IMPD officer who fought for the right to sue a local gun shop has died.

Dewayne “Dewey” Runnels died Saturday after a short illness.

He was the focus of our 13 Investigates report "The Gun Trail." In 2011, Runnels was shot by a convicted felon who was able to obtain a gun through a straw purchase from K S & E Sports on the city’s east side. Runnels claimed K S & E Sports should pay for his suffering and time off because the store illegally sold the gun used in his shooting, knowing it was going to be given to a convicted felon. Felons aren't allowed to have guns.

Under state law, gun sellers in Indiana are granted immunity from lawsuits.

On April 24, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a split decision in the case. The court said gun dealers cannot be sued for damages if a gun they sell is used to injure someone, not even if the gun was part of an illegal sale. While the court said Runnels could not collect damages, the justices said his claims about K S & E being a public nuisance should get a hearing in Marion County.

According to Runnels' lawsuit, K S & E sold more than 500 guns traced back to crimes making it one of the top crime-gun sellers in the nation.

Court documents show Demetrious Martin, the felon who shot Runnels, picked out a gun with his friend at K S & E Sports. That friend, Tarus Blackburn, later purchased the weapon and gave it to Martin.

Blackburn was later convicted in federal court for the straw purchase. Martin was killed in the shootout with Runnels.

Runnels retired from IMPD In July where he worked in the East District.