Fort Pierce, FL – A federal jury determined that a St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputy did not use excessive force when he shot a drunk man who pointed a gun at his partner in 2014, but did hold the department partially liable for the man’s death.
After 10 hours of deliberation, the jury awarded a total of $4 to the family of Gregory Hill Jr. on May 24, WKYC reported.
That's four dollars, not four million dollars.
The jury found that St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara was one percent liable for Hill’s death, and held the deceased man himself 99 percent liable for “the incident and his resulting injuries,” the jury form read.
The award will be evenly divided amongst Hill’s mother and his three children.
Since the sheriff was found liable for one percent, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office will be required to pay a total of four cents to Hill’s family, WKYC reported.
The fatal encounter occurred on Jan. 14, 2014, after parents who were picking up their children from school called police to complain about loud, vulgar music coming from Hill’s residence across the street, according to The Washington Post.
St. Lucie County Deputies Christopher Newman and Edward Lopez responded to Hill’s home and knocked on his door, but didn’t receive a response.
They then knocked on the door of his garage, which Hill began to open.
“They saw a black male holding a handgun at his right side,” Sheriff Mascara said in a statement the day after the incident. “Deputies ordered the male to drop the gun. Instead of complying...the male raised the gun toward the deputies as he simultaneously pulled the garage door closed.”
“Gun!” Deputy Lopez yelled, as Hill pointed the weapon at him.
Fearing for his partner’s safety, Deputy Newman opened fire, as Hill lowered the garage door.
The deputies were unable to ascertain whether any of the rounds struck Hill once the door finished closing.
Additional officers responded to the scene, which was thereafter handled as a barricade situation.
“We also received information from a man claiming to be the subject’s uncle,” the Sheriff Mascara said at the time, according to The Washington Post. “This man told investigators he had spoken with the subject on the telephone during the event and that he was alive and uninjured but afraid to come out.”
Over the course of the next four hours, police attempted to make contact with Hill.
Tactical teams deployed tear gas inside the residence, and later sent a robot into the garage.
In the end, investigators found Hill’s body lying in a pool of blood inside his garage. He had been shot in his head, groin, and abdomen, and had an unloaded handgun in his back pocket.
Toxicology results indicated that Hill’s blood-alcohol content was nearly 0.4 percent – nearly five times the legal limit, WKYC reported.
Sheriff Mascara released a statement following the jury’s verdict, and reiterated that Deputy Newman had done his best to ensure the safety of his partner and the community.
“We are pleased to see this difficult and tragic incident come to a conclusion,” the sheriff said in a Facebook post. “Deputy Newman was placed in a very difficult situation, and like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced.”
“We appreciate the jury’s time and understanding and wish everyone involved in this case the best as they move forward,” Sheriff Mascara concluded.
Hill’s family’s attorney, John Phillips, blasted the jury’s decision, and said he would rather that the panel had found no negligence as opposed to one percent, The New York Times reported.
“I think they were trying to insult the case,” Phillips said of the jury and its decision. “Why go there with the $1? That was the hurtful part.”
“I don’t get it,” he continued. “It seems like jurors gave up.”
Phillips said he planned to make a motion for a new trial. If his request is denied, he will file an appeal, he said.