Chenoweth Law Group

Settlement reached in Washington man's death

The family of a man who was beaten to death by police officers in Spokane, Washington, has settled a personal injury suit with the city for $1.67 million. The out-of-court settlement also stipulated that the city issue a public apology, name a park pavilion for the dead man and provide police officers with improved training.

The City Council still must approve the agreement.

The case reaches back to 2006,when Spokane officers received a report that the man, 36, was behaving strangely in a convenience store. The witnesses told police that he could have taken money from an ATM, but he had not.

Video from the store showed one officer confronting the man, then beating him with a baton and a Taser, even as the man tried to back away. Other officers sat on him until he was unconscious. The man, a janitor who had been identified as mentally ill, died days later.

The settlement was reached with the help of a U.S. District Court judge from Oregon who served as a mediator. The man's mother and his estate had asked for $14 million.

This case has had a major impact on Spokane for more than five years. Several city officials have lost their jobs since the beating, and it also is said to have been a factor in the mayor's election defeat.

Once the City Council approves the settlement, the case will not be over. While the officer who initially confronted the man in the convenience store was fired and convicted in a federal criminal case for lying to investigators for his use of excessive force, he has yet to be sentenced and is free while he seeks a retrial.

While the man's mother had to wait a long time for a settlement, she won a victory in the city acknowledging one of its employees had caused her son's death and agreeing to state so in public. Her perseverance also led to a town structure being named in his honor, which will insure he never is forgotten.

Source: Associated Press, "Settlement reached in lawsuit over police beating," Nicholas K. Geranios, May 15, 2012

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