police excessive force

His life mattered: After protests and pushback, city settles Smith lawsuit for $2.57 million

More than three years after Marcus Smith, a homeless Black man, died in police custody, the city of Greensboro announced Tuesday that it has settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by his family for $2.57 million.

Mary Smith sued the city, Guilford County, eight police officers and two paramedics in her son’s controversial death, which has been fuel for those who want to reform Greensboro’s police force.

Video from officer-worn cameras of the September 2018 incident showed an anxious Smith, seemingly in the midst of a mental health episode, on downtown Church Street pleading for help from police before he was restrained, with his hands bound to his feet while lying on his stomach.

The method of extreme restraint — commonly known as “hogtying” — led to his death, a state medical examiner later said.

And it would be the foundation of the lawsuit filed by the Smith family.

Since then, the city has been under immense pressure to settle and spent hundreds of thousands in attorney fees defending various aspects of the case.

Some wondered if a settlement would ever be reached.

But that changed Tuesday.

City pays $135,000 to settle police dog attack lawsuit

The city of Palo Alto paid $135,000 to a man who was bitten by a police dog while he was innocently sleeping in a backyard, according to a settlement agreement released today (Jan. 5).

In exchange for the payment, Joel Alejo will release the city of all liability from the incident.

It’s the fifth lawsuit related to police misconduct that Palo Alto has settled since February 2016, amounting to $1,282,500 including the Alejo case.

The settlement stems from a dog attack on June 25, 2020, at 1847 Elsie Ave. in Mountain View that hospitalized Alejo with gashes on his leg.

Alejo was sleeping in his family’s backyard while police were searching for a kidnapping suspect around 2:30 a.m.

Palo Alto Agent Nick Enberg responded with his German shepherd. He entered the property through the side gate and came across Alejo laying down in a shed.

Enberg then ordered his dog in Czechoslovakian to bite — “dirsh” — and he repeated the command over 30 times while Alejo yelled and tried to get the dog off of him.

Alejo turned out not to be the person that police were looking for. He was taken to the hospital with exposed fat cells and damaged nerves, according to his lawsuit.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen didn’t file charges against Enberg, who still handles a police dog, according to a September police report.

Texas Police Settle $5 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Black Man Killed While Being Filmed By TV Crew

A police department near Austin, Texas, has settled a wrongful death lawsuit after a Black man named Javier Ambler II died in custody in 2019 as officers filmed for Live PD, a now-cancelled reality television show.

KEY FACTS

The commissioners court in Williamson County, located just north of Austin, voted Tuesday to approve a $5 million settlement in Ambler’s wrongful death lawsuit.

Williamson County will pay $1.6 million of the settlement, while the rest will be covered by the county’s insurance.

Ambler’s family filed the lawsuit in October, alleging that then Sheriff Robert Chody encouraged his officers to engage in “dangerous, high-risk police tactics” because it made for “more entertaining television.” 

TANGENT

Police pursued Ambler in a car chase in March 2019 after he didn’t dim his headlights in the direction of oncoming traffic, according to an investigation by the local station KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman. J.J. Johnson, an officer regularly featured on Live PD, followed Ambler for 22 minutes before Ambler crashed his car just north of downtown Austin. Johnson and another deputy, Zachary Camden, told Ambler to lay on his stomach and tasered him four times in total, as Ambler seemed to resist. Ambler, according to the report, told them he couldn’t breathe and had congestive heart failure before they tasered him a final time. Moments after handcuffing Ambler, they realized he was unresponsive and that his pulse had stopped. Ambler was pronounced dead shortly after at a local hospital. 

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