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Baltimore awards $230,000 settlement to man shot by city police who argued police planted gun

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved a $230,000 settlement Wednesday to be paid to a man who was shot by city police and alleged during his trial that police planted a gun on him to justify their actions.

The board unanimously voted in favor of the settlement for Richard Gibbs related to a 2016 traffic stop in which Gibbs was shot in the upper chest by police.

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According to testimony at his 2017 trial, Gibbs was pulled over for driving with an “obliterated” license plate and police said he stepped out of his vehicle holding a loaded gun. Officer Jeffrey Melo, who shot Gibbs, testified he did not see a gun but reacted to his veteran partner yelling out “Gun!”

Police said at the time they recovered a gun at the scene with Gibbs’ DNA on it.

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Gibbs’ attorney argued in court that the gun had been planted and suggested officers brushed the weapon against the steering wheel of the car Gibbs was driving to pick up DNA. Police testified the gun had been thrown into the air during a struggle and landed on the hood of the vehicle, but Woods argued there was no scratch or dent on the hood.

In June 2017, a jury found Gibbs not guilty of felony handgun possession, carrying and transporting a gun in a vehicle, and resisting arrest. Gibbs sued Melo and other officers involved in the incident, and a civil trial was expected to begin in January.

City attorneys said Wednesday that Gibbs had to undergo surgery and physical therapy as a result of his injuries and also was incarcerated for eight months. The city law department’s settlement review committee recommended approving the settlement after considering the “factual issues” specific to the case.

Gibbs’ attorney, Tiffani Collins, said her client, who suffered permanent injuries as a result of the shooting, looks forward to putting the case behind him.

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“I don’t think that there is any amount of money that can compensate someone for the loss of use of a limb,” she said. “His injuries are so severe that it would do an injustice to him to say it was satisfactory.”

Council President Nick Mosby, one of five members of the Board of Estimates, questioned whether an internal investigation was conducted as a result of the incident. Lisa Walden, an attorney for the police department, said the special investigation response team was deployed to the scene and concluded the officers’ conduct was in compliance with city policy.

Comptroller Bill Henry said the wasn’t interested in “retrying” the case, but the DNA evidence on the gun suggested it was involved in a struggle between Gibbs and the officers.

“That would seem to be less likely if the gun was planted,” he said. “Unless the officers pressed the gun into the hands of the plaintiff, which seems like an odd way to plant the gun.”

Mosby argued Gibbs’ DNA was “all over the scene” because he was shot at close range.

“The jury believed that the gun was planted,” said Mosby, conceding the board couldn’t say so explicitly. ”There was some level of concern that the gun was found that the jury didn’t convict him.”

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