News broke in advance of a scheduled pre-trial conference at 1:30 p.m. that the city of Little Rock settled the lawsuit over the 2010 shooting death of Eugene Ellison by Little Rock police.
Marci Manley of KARK quotes Mike Laux, attorney for the Ellison family, as saying the settlement will include a payment of $900,000, a memorial bench to Ellison and an apology to the family. The city will not admit liability. Claudia Lauer of the Associated Press earlier confirmed terms from City Attorney Tom Carpenter, who hasn’t responded to my calls as yet.
The lawsuit also included Ellison’s apartment complex, Big Country Chateau, and its owner, Carl Schultz, as defendants. They employed the private security. Tommy Williams of the Quattlebaum firm said those defendants had reached a settlement in the case April 27, but said he couldn’t comment beyond that fact, reflected in court documents. The notice of settlement includes no terms. The plaintiffs said later that the settlement, plus the city payment was, “well over $1 million.”
The case is detailed at length here. Little Rock officer Donna Lesher shot Ellison from outside his apartment, where she was joined by three other officers. Lesher and Tabitha McCrillis, another police officer working private security at his Asher Avenue apartment complex, had scuffled with Ellison after he objected to their entry into his apartment through an open door without permission. They said they were checking on him.
The case was to go to trial Monday in federal Judge Brian Miller’s court. He’d earlier refused the police officers claim of immunity. They have been represented by the city attorney’s office.
The officers remain on the police force and were cleared of any rules violations in the deadly conflict. The prosecutor’s office also found the shooting justified.
Troy Ellison, son of the victim, brought the suit on behalf of his estate. He is a Little Rock police lieutenant.
The settlement will include a ceremony led by City Manager Bruce Moore. Roll will be taken of elected city officials, I hope.
The settlement, in addition to following a likely financial settlement with the private defendants, came against a backdrop of sporadic mediation between the city and plaintiffs. At a pre-trial hearing this week, the judge also observed that, whatever verdict came from the trial, appeals likely would proceed for several years. That could have been an impetus for settlement.
The city will seek payment of the $900,000 from the Arkansas Municipal League’s insurance program. The settlement avoids any adverse finding against the city, from police procedures on up. A verdict against the city, in addition to whatever damages might have been awarded to the Ellison family, would have opened the door to attorney fees. On the plaintiff side, a long and expensive pre-trial preparation process comes to an end with payments and some official acknowledgment from the city.
UPDATE: The Ellison family and lawyers will have a news conference at 1 p.m. tomorrow about the settlement. Their statement:
The lawyers for the Estate of Eugene Ellison and the City of Little Rock today informed the Federal District Court that they have reached an historic settlement in the fatal shooting case of 67-year-old Eugene Ellison.
The Estate of Mr. Ellison, who was unjustifiably shot by an off duty Little Rock police officer while in this own home on December 9, 2010, will receive well in excess of a million dollars (the exact amount of the settlement with Big Country Chateau is confidential), together with an official apology from the city, a memorial bench at a site to be determined by Mr. Ellison’s family, and a dedication ceremony. Not only is this the largest police brutality settlement in the history of Little Rock, but additionally the apology and memorial are both unprecedented and considered extremely important to Mr. Ellison’s family, which includes Little Rock police lieutenant Troy Ellison and former Little Rock police detective Spencer Ellison.
The Estate is represented by Michael J. Laux of the Chicago Laux Law Group, Doris Cheng of the law firm of Walkup Melodia Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco, and G. Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office in Chicago.
The city issued this statement late in the day:
On Friday, May 6, 2016, the City of Little Rock reached a settlement with the estate of Eugene Ellison in the officer-involved shooting that occurred Dec. 9, 2010.
Because of the possibility of continued litigation in the court system, all parties decided this resolution was in the best interests of everyone involved.
There is no doubt that this incident is a tragedy that has deeply affected many in our City. Today’s agreement allows the community, the families, and the Little Rock Police Department to move forward and begin to heal.
City Manager Bruce T. Moore
City Attorney Tom Carpenter