(CNN) – A county in New Jersey has agreed to pay a $10 million settlement to a black man who was left paralyzed after an encounter with police eight years ago.
The lawsuit, filed by 29-year-old Xavier Ingram, lists Camden County, the Camden County Police Department, then Deputy Chief of Police Orlando Cuevas and then-Chief of Police John Scott Thomson, as well as three police officers involved in the incident. — Jeremy Merck, Antonio Gennetta and Nicholas Marchiafava — as defendants.
The county agreed to a settlement last week after years of litigation and a mistrial was declared March 29 in federal court in Camden, when a jury was deadlocked over whether the officers were responsible for Ingram’s injuries.
After the mistrial, the judge presiding over the case asked the investigating judge to intercede and mediate to determine if the parties could agree on a settlement. The county made the settlement offer which was approved by both parties, which settled the case, Ingram’s attorney, Beth Baldinger, told CNN.
Ingram was transported from his nursing home to the courtroom where he testified on a hospital bed before the jury, which Baldinger called “really remarkable”.
The lawsuit charged the officer with using unnecessary, unnecessary and excessive force and violating Ingram’s right to be free from unlawful and unreasonable seizure, as protected by the Constitution. The lawsuit also accused Merck of failing to provide the medical care required by their training and failing to intervene, which resulted in the violation of Ingram’s constitutional and civil rights.
Although all parties agreed to the settlement, Camden County attorneys, the police department and the officers involved told CNN the settlement was a business decision made by the insurance company. The defendants say Ingram was not entitled to the settlement, their attorneys said, not alleging any wrongdoing.
Jay Blumberg, attorney for Merck, said in a statement that the insurance company “was concerned about the climate in which we live and that the jury would not be able to see any further.”
Dan Keashen, a media relations officer for Camden County and its police department, said in a statement following the settlement: ‘Totally disagree, and based on the fact that the insurance company takes a business decision and force Camden County’s hand, we will settle the matter with Mr. Ingram. We don’t believe this is the right decision, as we have repeatedly said over the past eight years of litigation.
Camden County officials continue to claim Ingram was injured when he fled from police during the encounter.
“Based on the settlement, the County maintains and continues to maintain that no wrongdoing has occurred and is not responsible for any of the actions and circumstances of the above incident,” Keashen’s statement continued.
Ingram suffered severe cervical spine injuries during the encounter, and he became a quadriplegic who is “permanently and utterly disabled,” according to the lawsuit.
“Mr. Ingram is very relieved, confident and comfortable with the settlement. It’s finally over. It’s been an epic eight-year battle to get justice for him,” Baldinger said, calling the settlement “tremendous. recognition, even if the defendants do not admit their responsibility”.
Officers stomped on Ingram, according to a suit
The incident occurred on June 12, 2014, when Ingram, a Camden County resident, encountered three county police officers who were patrolling on foot and conducting a “sweep” of an apartment complex, according to the lawsuit.
Ingram met the officers on his way to a liquor store where he met a friend, according to the lawsuit. When he left the store with his friend, according to the lawsuit, he was approached by Gennetta and Marchiafava.
Ingram ran into a restaurant parking lot while the two officers continued to pursue him, according to the lawsuit, then ran down the street and surrendered, lying on the ground with his hands out in front of him.
The two officers “jumped on Ingram and handcuffed him,” which he did not resist, according to the lawsuit. Merck arrived at the scene while Ingram was arrested.
Officers are accused of stomping on Ingram’s neck and back, then “severely punching” him, according to the lawsuit. One of the officers “put his boot on Ingram’s neck and voluntarily forcefully resigned”, causing him excruciating pain as he yelled at the officers to stop, the trial alleged.
Ingram also accused officers of failing to provide medical attention despite hearing him complain of extreme neck pain and being unable to feel his arms and legs. Officers observed Ingram’s condition but forcefully moved him and failed to stabilize his spine in violation of their emergency medical training, the lawsuit said.
CNN has reviewed a statement posted by the Camden County Police Department on its website on June 13, 2014, a day after the incident, alleging officers assisted in stabilizing Ingram after he slipped and fell at the floor.
“The arresting officers acted with composure throughout the incident and had the presence of mind to immediately render aid and seek medical assistance,” Thomson said in a statement. included in the release.
Ingram’s injuries sustained in assault, doctors say
Cooper University Medical Center reported Ingram’s injuries to several areas of his cervical spine and said they were sustained during an assault, according to medical documents.
The defendants, however, argued that Ingram suffered his injuries while slipping and falling without being hit by officers.
The Camden County District Attorney’s Office also released a statement a day after the incident, alleging Ingram “slipped and fell on a wet road” in “an attempt to evade police.”
The lawsuit accused the defendants of conspiring to cover up the conduct of officers involved in the incident, including posting “false and misleading” statements posted on the police department’s website that claimed Ingram’s injuries appeared to be “an accident of its own accord”. .”
Ingram was charged with harboring, resisting arrest, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of drugs, according to court documents. Ingram’s attorneys argued that the drugs were planted on him based on several conflicting accounts as to who located the drugs, when and where. His attorneys also allege the gun was planted and police intentionally destroyed fingerprints and DNA evidence that would have exonerated Ingram.
Ingram, who maintained his innocence of the charges, obtained a separate criminal defense attorney who filed a motion to have the charges dismissed, which was granted two weeks after the mistrial, according to Baldinger.
During the civil trial, the defense team did not address the drug charges, but officers denied planting a weapon at Ingram, Baldinger said. The prosecutor’s office has not brought any criminal charges against the officers related to those charges after determining there was insufficient evidence to charge them with misconduct, she added.
However, a statement on behalf of Camden County and its police department after the settlement said the county was continuing to maintain at the time of the incident Ingram “dodged between two cars where a hot gun fired was found and had heroin in his possession when he slipped and fell unharmed while running from the pursuing officers.
After both sides agreed to the settlement, Baldinger told CNN the lawsuit accomplished “what many civil rights litigants go through, which is an extraordinary ordeal.”
“To peel back the layers of how police departments want to present themselves publicly, but really how they operate under the radar,” she said.
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