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Wisconsin gun shop is ordered to pay millions to injured police officers

Milwaukee police Officer Bryan Norberg, left, and former Officer Graham Kunisch, right, testify in court Oct. 5.

Milwaukee police Officer Bryan Norberg, left, and former Officer Graham Kunisch, right, testify in court Oct. 5.

(Mike De Sisti / Milkwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

A jury ordered a Wisconsin gun store on Tuesday to pay nearly $6 million to two Milwaukee police officers who were shot and seriously wounded by a gun purchased at the store.

The ruling came in a negligence lawsuit that the officers filed against the owners and operators of Badger Guns. The suit alleged the shop allowed an illegal sale despite several warning signs that should have prompted a store clerk to stop the transaction and know the gun was being sold to a “straw buyer,” or someone who was buying the gun for someone who couldn’t legally do so.

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FOR THE RECORD

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An earlier version of this post said it was written by Times staff writer Matt Pearce. The story is from the Associated Press.

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Jurors sided with the officers, ruling that the store was negligent in selling the gun.

Officer Bryan Norberg and retired Officer Graham Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in the summer of 2009. Surveillance video shows the officers scuffled with Burton and slammed him into a wall before he shot them.

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One bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and became lodged in his shoulder. He remains on the force but says his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was shot several times, resulting in his losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He said the wounds forced him to retire.

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Jurors ordered the store to pay Norberg $1.5 million and Kunisch $3.6 million, in addition to $730,000 in punitive damages.

The issue gained attention in the presidential campaign when Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton recently said she would push for a repeal of the George W. Bush-era gun law that Badger Guns’ lawyers said shielded the store from liability claims.

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Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence. The man who purchased the gun, Jacob Collins, got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.

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