Jury awards 4 cents to family of man killed by sheriff’s deputy

“I think they were trying to insult the case,” the family’s lawyer, John Phillips, added. “Why go there with the $1? That was the hurtful part.”

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Responding to a noise complaint over loud music, two deputies with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office in Florida arrived at the scene and killed a resident for allegedly pointing a gun at them. Despite the fact that police investigators found an unloaded gun in the deceased man’s back pocket, a jury recently awarded his family with four cents in damages following the wrongful death lawsuit.

On January 14, 2014, Deputies Christopher Newman and Edward Lopez responded to the house of Gregory Hill Jr. after receiving a noise complaint about his music. Listening to music in his garage, Hill opened the door and suddenly closed it as Newman opened fired through the door.

“They saw a black male holding a handgun at his right side,” St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said in a statement the day after the incident. “Deputies ordered the male to drop the gun. Instead of complying…the male raised the gun toward the deputies as he simultaneously pulled the garage door closed.”

As Hill attempted to close the garage door, Newman fired four bullets through the closing door. According to reports, Newman shot Hill in the head, abdomen, and groin.

Erroneously believing that Hill was still alive, the deputies called reinforcements and established a perimeter around his house. After nearly four hours, a tactical team eventually fired canisters of tear gas and deployed a robot to enter the garage where they found Hill’s corpse.

According to police investigative reports, an unloaded Kel-Tec 9mm was found in the right back pocket of Hill’s jean shorts, not in his hand or on the floor near his body.

When a jury declined to indict Newman, Hill’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and accused the deputies of violating his civil rights. After hours of deliberation, the jury in the wrongful death suit awarded $1 to Hill’s mother for funeral expenses and $1 to each of his three children.

Due to the fact that the jury found Hill, who had been intoxicated prior to the fatal shooting, was 99 percent responsible for his own death, the sheriff’s department is only required to pay 1 percent of the damages, which is 4 cents.

“We are pleased to see this difficult and tragic incident come to a conclusion,” Sheriff Mascara wrote in a recent statement. “Deputy Newman was placed in a very difficult situation, and like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced. We appreciate the jury’s time and understanding and wish everyone involved in this case the best as they move forward.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Hill’s fiancée, Monique Davis, told the New York Times. “There are a lot of questions I want to ask.”

“I think they were trying to insult the case,” the family’s lawyer, John Phillips, added. “Why go there with the $1? That was the hurtful part.”

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Andrew Emett is a staff writer for NationofChange. Andrew is a Los Angeles-based reporter exposing political and corporate corruption. His interests include national security, corporate abuse, and holding government officials accountable. Andrew’s work has appeared on Raw Story, Alternet, and many other sites. You can follow him on Twitter @AndrewEmett and on Facebook at Andrew Emett.

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