The city's Board of Estimates is poised this week to approve settlements to the family of a man fatally shot in the back by a Baltimore police officer and an Army Reserve captain who said he lost his job with the state's attorney's office after leaving for military training.
The family of Edward Lamar Hunt will receive $375,000, an agreement reached in June on the third day of a civil trial in Baltimore Circuit Court. Hunt was shot twice in the back Jan. 30, 2008, while running from Officer Tommy Sanders after being patted down at the Hamilton Park Shopping Center.
"The first witnesses we put on were adamant that Mr. Hunt had been searched thoroughly, and that the officer should have known that Mr. Hunt was not armed. The testimony was quite definitive," said the family's attorney, A. Dwight Pettit.
Sanders, who was charged with manslaughter but acquitted by a city jury in June 2010, had testified at his criminal trial that he believed he saw Hunt reach into his jacket pocket and feared for his life. Sanders remains on the force, a police spokesman said Monday.
The original lawsuit sought $10 million, and Pettit said he didn't want to settle the case. But he said the family feared the jury's award could have been capped at $200,000 under the Maryland Local Tort Claims Act, which limits the amount juries can award in cases involving local governments.
City Solicitor George Nilson said the uncertainty of the application of that cap also factored into the city's decision to settle.
The settlement is at the higher end of recent payouts for alleged police misconduct, which city officials testified at a hearing in November has cost taxpayers $10.4 million over the past three years. Police officials say they have instituted better training for officers, which has reduced brutality complaints.
The city's spending board, which meets Wednesday, is also set to approve a $36,600 settlement payment for Capt. Andrew Gross, 28, a lawyer from Columbia who had joined the Army Reserve. In 2009, he left the Baltimore state's attorney's office for six months of training in Charlottesville, Va., and Fort Sill, Okla., and said the office declined to rehire him after he finished.
Gross claimed the prosecutors' office discriminated against him because of his military service and violated the U.S. Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which gave him the right to reclaim his employment after being absent for service. Nilson said city officials "learned things [about that law] that we didn't totally know before" the suit was filed.
On Monday, Gross' attorney, Steven D. Silverman, praised Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.
"We got exactly what we wanted, which was what they were obligated to reimburse him under the law," Silverman said. "I'm glad that Mr. Bernstein … was ready, willing and able to step up to the plate and resolve it without any protracted litigation."