The Family Of A Black Man Killed By Detroit Police Awarded $1.5 Million By Jury.

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A federal jury awarded the family of a Black man killed by Detroit police $1.5 million in damages after they filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The jury ruled that the two policemen, Tyler Nagy and Raul Martinez violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force when they responded to a report of an armed and intoxicated person in October of 2018.

“On a dark street, officers found Lamont Johnson standing next to his bike, shined a flashlight in his eyes and shouted, ‘Hands!’ Less than three seconds later, both officers opened fire on Johnson, who had a handgun in his waistband,” the Detroit Metro Times reports.

Mark E. Boegehold, the attorney representing the Johnson family, argued that there wasn’t enough time for Johnson, who was 44, to even reach for his gun. “We alleged that a reasonable police officer would not have shot him because we didn’t see any movement from Lamont, and there wasn’t enough time for him to reach for a gun – 2.5 seconds is not enough time,” said Boegehold “What they think they saw was not what happened. That’s what we presented to the jury.”

Johnson’s family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two officers and the city of Detroit in October 2020. On March 15, in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, the jury awarded the family $1.5 million, which breaks down “to $4,800 for funeral expenses, $100,000 for conscious pain and suffering, $420,000 for lost wages, $86,000 for medical expenses and $900,000 for past and future loss of society and companionship.”

Despite the jury’s decision, the two officers still remain employed by the Detroit Police Department (DPD), which said they “acted within department policy.”

The DPD issued a statement, “A comprehensive internal investigation into officers’ actions revealed no policy violations…Accordingly, the officers continue to work for the DPD. While the department respects the jurors’ work in this matter, we ultimately disagree with their findings.  It is our understanding that the City of Detroit will be appealing this decision.”

Nagy and Martinez were even honored by the Detroit Police Officers Association in May 2019 for their involvement in this case, “display(ing) heroic actions by preventing a violent man from harming his victims or any other innocent citizens.” The union pamphlet said that Johnson had “removed his .32-caliber pistol from his waistband and started to raise it.” But, per the lawsuit, the body camera footage does not support this version of events.

This case continues a trend, in which lawsuits because of police misconduct end up costing taxpayers millions. According to CBS News, “[c]ities can face hundreds of lawsuits related to police misconduct each year — often related to the conduct of just a few officers — and while the payouts vary wildly, settlements are almost always funded by taxpayers. Police officers have qualified immunity, which means they are generally shielded from criminal prosecution, so for people alleging misconduct, lawsuits may be the only recourse.”

“It seems almost as if it’s a cost of doing business in some jurisdictions,” said Anne Houghtaling, the Legal Defense Fund’s senior deputy director of strategic initiatives.

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