City wants to settle 2013 police trainee shooting case for $200,000

City attorneys seek approval of $200k settlement in police trainee shooting case, but victim's lawyers aren't

The Rawlings-Blake administration is asking the city spending board to approve a $200,000 lawsuit settlement in the 2013 accidental shooting of a police trainee, though the victim's attorneys have not agreed to the deal.

Officials are asking the Board of Estimates to approve the amount because, they contend, it is the maximum to which former University of Maryland police trainee Raymond Gray is entitled.

The money would be put into a court registry "to resolve the litigation proceedings," city attorneys wrote in documents submitted to the Board of Estimates. City Solicitor George Nilson said the move was a "relatively unusual situation" aimed at ending the case quickly if Gray's attorneys accept.

But attorneys A. Dwight Pettit and Allen Rabineau said they disagree that Gray's claims are capped at $200,000 and are preparing for trial next month in U.S. District Court.

"It's a continuation of the city's arrogance and defiance," Pettit said during a break in another police misconduct trial his team has brought in Baltimore Circuit Court. He said Gray was training to be a police officer and that the city should "do the right thing" and agree to a higher amount.

Gray lost an eye when he was shot Feb. 12, 2013, by city police training instructor William S. Kern during a drill at the Rosewood Center, a former mental health facility in Owings Mills that has been closed since 2010. His attorneys say he's unable to work and has racked up $800,000 in medical bills that over his lifetime will exceed $7 million.

Kern was conducting a firearms exercise with paintball-like weapons but accidentally pulled a service weapon he should not have been carrying, investigators concluded. At the time of the incident, top police officials said the exercise was unauthorized, and state officials said city police did not have permission to use the shuttered facility.

Gray was training to be an officer with the University of Maryland police force, which like other smaller agencies had an agreement to have its officers train with city police.

City attorneys had previously asked for Gray's lawsuit to be dismissed, saying Kern broke agency rules and that his conduct was not condoned. Gray was milling around and not taking part in the exercise when Kern shot him "purportedly to teach Gray and the other trainees" a lesson about paying attention in dangerous scenarios.

"The BPD training protocols, which were ignored by former Officer Kern, were put into place specifically to avoid the type of accident that injured" Gray, city lawyers wrote in paperwork submitted to the Board of Estimates, which will be asked to approve the possible payment Wednesday.

Kern was charged with assault and reckless endangerment, and convicted of the latter charge. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, with all but about two months suspended, and fired from the Police Department.

Gray's civil claim was brought in federal court, where his attorneys believe it will not be subject to the state's cap on damages in claims against local governments.

The case is one of two that city attorneys are seeking to settle, after reaching an agreement to pay $125,000 to a West Baltimore woman in an unrelated case that also will be submitted to the spending board Wednesday.

In that case, Jean Williams has alleged that Officer James Bradley wrongly removed her two grandchildren from her care as he investigated their parents.

Bradley was part of a Drug Enforcement Administration task force investigating Robert Moore and Sarah Hooker in 2012. Moore was eventually convicted for a murder conspiracy to avenge the death of a cousin and was sentenced to six life sentences plus 100 years. Hooker testified against Moore and another defendant and received a life sentence with all but 15 years suspended.

The lawsuit alleges that after Moore and Hooker were arrested, the Department of Social Services took custody of their children and asked Bradley if he could recommend a relative with whom they could be placed. He recommended their grandmother, Williams, who has a foster care and assisted-living license.

Bradley contends that he warned Williams to keep the children away from Hooker, but officers saw Williams take them to an area "considered to be unsafe," which is not specified in documents submitted to the spending board.

Bradley removed the children from her care, and took them to Baltimore County social services. The lawsuit questioned the basis for removing the children, and was headed for a trial earlier this month before the settlement was reached, records show.

Williams' attorneys declined to comment on the case.

Including Bradley's case, records show the city has settled at least five lawsuits against police officers since Jan. 1, exceeding $475,000 in payouts.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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