A federal jury awarded a Massachusetts woman $1.3 million Monday after finding a police officer violated her son’s civil rights during a confrontation that ended with the teenager being fatally struck by a passing car.
The jury’s nine members deliberated for about seven hours before delivering their verdict.
They found that police officer Sean Sullivan violated the civil rights of 15-year-old Delano Walker Jr. during a confrontation in July 2009.
Walker’s mother, Kissa Owens, filed the lawsuit in 2012. The suit alleged civil rights violations including excessive force, reckless intent, false arrest, assault and battery, and wrongful death.
Jurors listened intently to testimonies describing the confrontation between Walker, Sullivan and Police Sgt. Peter Albano during the three-day trial.
Witnesses said the two officers stopped Walker and two friends as they emerged, riding bicycles, from a car lot near Springfield, Massachusetts.
Dominic May, a witness for the plaintiff, said Sullivan repeatedly grabbed at Walker’s throat when the teen refused to immediately end a cell phone call. May said Sullivan’s actions sent the teen spinning away from the officer and into oncoming traffic.
In testimony before the jury, Albano and Sullivan said Walker was immediately combative and reached for something in his pocket while dancing backward away from them. He danced backward into the traffic, they both testified.
The driver of the Toyota Camry that struck Walker was never charged.
Jurors ruled in favor of Owens on the civil rights violations including the accusations of reckless intent and assault and battery. They found in favor of Sullivan on the false arrest and wrongful death counts.
“We are very grateful that the jury in this case was able to sift through the evidence and arrive at a true and fair verdict,” Owens’ attorney, David Hoose, told WGGB. “While we appreciate immensely the monetary award, I’m sure that everyone understands that no amount of money will bring back Delano Walker, Jr. We hope that this verdict will lead to a review of stop and frisk procedures and use of force within the Springfield Police Department.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno extended his condolences to Walker’s family.
“First of all, my condolences to the family. At this juncture we will take stock of our legal options and most likely appeal the verdict,” Sarno said through a spokesman.
Sullivan’s attorney, Kevin Coyle, also indicated an appeal of the verdict could be coming.
“We're exploring all of our legal remedies,” Coyle told The Republican.
Owens was careful not to call the verdict a victory.
“I wouldn't say ‘I won,’” she said. “Nothing will bring my son back. ‘I won’ would be my son walking through the door. I would say justice was served.”
Photo Source: The Republican