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.

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. 

Family awarded $730 million in wrongful death of East Texas woman

The surviving children of a 73-year-old East Texas woman killed in a 2016 crash were awarded $730 million Monday by a Titus County jury in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Toni Combest was driving from one church service to another on Feb. 21, 2016, when she was killed on the White Oak bridge near Mount Pleasant by a nearly 200,000-pound “Super-Load” escorted by front and back pilot escort vehicles.

The lawsuit for negligence causing wrongful death was filed against the trucking company and the employing companies of the front and rear escort vehicles.

Landstar Ranger, the trucking company, and S&M Pilot Service, the employer of the rear escort driver settled prior to trial for $50 million and $1 million, respectively. The case against 2A Pilot Cars, the employer of the front escort vehicle, went to trial and lasted about a week.

Brent Goudarzi of Goudarzi & Young in Longview and Gilmer represented the family in the lawsuit. Nelson Roach of Roach Langston Bruno also tried the case with Goudarzi.

“Yesterday, a proud jury in Titus County awarded our clients $730 million,” Goudarzi said Tuesday morning. “That jury stood up against the entire industry and is going to force them to affect changes. They’re going to make roads in Texas, and specifically all over East Texas, safer.”

Phoenix to pay $5M in lawsuit over man’s death during arrest

The 7-2 vote by the City Council ends the lawsuit by the sister of Muhammad Abdul Muhaymin, who was homeless and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

“Although they (city officials) didn’t acknowledge any specific kind of wrongdoing, the settlement makes a strong statement — and for that reason, I am happy we could move forward,” said Muhaymin’s sister, Mussallina Muhaymin.

City spokesman Dan Wilson declined to comment on the settlement on behalf of the city and police department. Lawyers representing the city had previously denied the lawsuit’s allegations of excessive force and wrongful death.

Mother of Elijah McClain Settles Wrongful Death Suit with Aurora Police

The mother of Elijah McCain, a Black man who died after an altercation with Colorado law enforcement, has settled her federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Aurora and its police department.

McClain, notes CBS News, was walking home from a convenience store when someone called 9-1-1 to report a person acting suspiciously. Police arrested McClain shortly after sighting him. A confrontation ensued when officers ordered McClain to stop.

However, McClain kept walking, and officers tried to subdue him.

After speaking with police, McClain told officers that he was on his way home and had not harmed or meant to harm anyone. He then explained that he had been listening to music and had thus not heard the officers’ commands.

While Aurora police officials said that McClain was violent and had tried reaching for their guns, body-camera footage of the encounter does not capture any evidence of these claims.

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