ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The family of an Iraq War veteran who was fatally shot by a police officer wanted to settle a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque for $1 million before a judge ruled in February that the veteran was unlawfully killed.
Instead, the case went to trial, and the family of Kenneth Ellis III was awarded more than $10.3 million by a jury Friday. The city was considering an appeal of the decision.
Shannon Kennedy, one of the family’s attorneys, told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/10YBZIK) that settlement negotiations in the case dated back to 2011.
At that time, Kennedy said, the parties weren’t far apart in what they believed the case was worth. At a mediation that year, the family offered to settle the case for $1 million. Kennedy said. The city offered $600,000, she said.
Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said that the family had offered to settle the case for $10 million after the February ruling that the shooting violated Ellis’ rights.
In addition to seeking $10 million after the February decision, the family’s attorney said the family asked for a letter signed by Mayor Richard Berry and a majority of city councilors apologizing for the shooting, 40 hours of crisis intervention training within one year for Economidy and Lampiris-Tremba and the same training for 75 percent of Albuquerque officers within two years.
The city countered with the $1.3 million offer, which the family didn’t accept.
The jury’s award on Friday included $7.6 million against the city for wrongful death and $2.7 million in punitive damages against Brett Lampiris-Tremba, the officer who fired the fatal shot.
Ellis was shot during a standoff in front of a convenience store in 2010. Ellis suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Jurors also found that the city was negligent in the supervision and retention of Lampiris-Tremba on the force and that another officer, Byron “Trey” Economidy, used excessive force in stopping Ellis the day of the shooting.
Lampiris-Tremba was cleared of wrongdoing by police internal affairs and a grand jury.
An attorney for the city had argued Lampiris-Tremba made the best decision he could during a dangerous situation, will have to live with the knowledge that he made the wrong decision and that the decision by police to stop Ellis that day was legal.
Ellis’ shooting was one of the department’s first in a string of officer-involved shootings since 2010 that later sparked protests and calls for a U.S. Justice Department investigation.
Hours before jurors reached their verdict, Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz announced he would be retiring later this year.