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Cecil County town of Rising Sun settles lawsuit over police killing

The Cecil County town of Rising Sun agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging three of its police officers used excessive force in shooting an armed and suicidal man to death two years ago.

The money comes from the town’s liability insurance carrier, the Local Government Insurance Trust, said John Breads, an attorney for the firm that represented the town. He said the town and officers admit no fault in settling the case.

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Town officials declined to comment, directing all questions to Breads.

James Meadows as seen with his wife Jackie. The family of James Meadows is suing the town of Rising Son and its police officers for fatally shooting him during a mental breakdown last year.
James Meadows as seen with his wife Jackie. The family of James Meadows is suing the town of Rising Son and its police officers for fatally shooting him during a mental breakdown last year. (courtesy of Jackie Meadows/courtesy of Jackie Meadows)

The federal lawsuit was reported in The Baltimore Sun last summer. Attorneys for the family of James Meadows, the 45-year-old construction worker who was killed by police, had been investigating a history of complaints against one of the officers, though all three opened fire.

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One of them, Officer Daniel Stickney Jr. previously faced lawsuits and even was criminally charged for his actions as an officer. Stickney was sued in 2010 in Rising Sun by a woman who accused him of forcing his way into her home and arresting her. The arrest happened after a pregnant Heather Miller and James Lucas-Pratt refused to answer questions about a car accident outside.

A lawsuit followed and Rising Sun and Stickney won at trial.

In March 2012, a prosecutor filed criminal charges of misconduct in office and assault against Stickney, accusing the officer of excessive force for allegedly slamming a teenage girl’s head into the hood of a patrol car.

A Cecil County jury deliberated about 14 minutes before finding the officer not guilty.

Stickney received enough complaints that the county state’s attorney decided he had lost faith in the officer and would not call him to testify. But the courts had not found Stickney committed any wrongdoing.

The police chief stood by his officer, even after a petition was started online to fire Dan Stickney. The officer has declined to comment.

In the wrongful death lawsuit, Meadows’ family accused the town of negligence for failing to vet, train and supervise officers such as Stickney. With their lawsuit, they also accused the three officers of failing to try to de-escalate the situation.

The family attorney wrote that police had been called to prevent James Meadows from killing himself; instead, they shot and killed him.

Meadows’ family had sued for $15 million, more than the town’s budget.

“My clients are relieved to have this matter behind them,” said Jeffrey Nusinov, the attorney for Meadows’ family. “We hope that holding the town accountable will assist in the continued reform efforts to protect the public.”

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