A federal jury on Tuesday awarded $5.5 million to the family of a 20-year-old man killed in 2012 by an off-duty Cleveland police officer who was cleared of wrongdoing by county prosecutors, attorney Terry Gilbert said.
The eight-person jury deliberated for more than two hours before it found that police officer Roger Jones violated Kenny Smith’s Fourth Amendment rights, in a federal civil trial in U.S. District court in downtown Cleveland.
The suit accused Jones of shooting the unarmed Smith after he exited a car driven by a man suspected of firing a gun during a fight, court documents said.
Jones and other police officers at the scene said in court that Smith refused to show his hands and actively resisted arrest, eventually going for a gun in the front seat of the car leaving officers no option but to shoot.
“We talked to the jury afterwards and they said they didn’t believe the officers,” Gilbert told Reuters. “We have to educate people that police can do things wrong and they have to be held accountable,” he added.
Three witnesses in a car stopped at the same traffic light said they saw Smith with his hands up when Jones fired the single shot at near point blank range, court documents said.
“This was a case that the city investigated and found no fault, and did not discipline Mr. Jones. County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty cleared Jones and called him a hero,” Gilbert told Reuters. “This shows how biased and irresponsible the system can be in ignoring wrongdoing by police.”
Although the civil suit was brought against Jones, the city of Cleveland insurance covers police officers in deadly force shootings, Gilbert said.