The family of a Florida man killed by a sheriff’s deputy are ‘heartbroken’ after they were awarded just four cents by a federal jury for his death.
The jury found on Thursday that 30-year-old Gregory Hill Jr was 99 percent responsible for his death because he was intoxicated and the St Lucie County Sheriff’s Office was one percent responsible.
The jury awarded Hill’s relatives $4 in damages, including $3 for the suffering of Hill’s three surviving children, which was reduced to just four cents when that total was multiplied by .01 because of the one percent finding of liability on the part of the Sheriff’s office by the jury.
‘That a black child’s pain is only worth a dollar is exactly the problem with the plight of the African-American right now. This says, black lives don’t matter,’ John Bryant, attorney for Hill’s family, told CNN.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started for Hill’s three children, ages 13, 10, and 7.
The jury award was broken down to $1 for Hill’s mother, Viola Bryant, for funeral expenses and $1 to each of Hill’s three children. The $1 for each of his children was intended to compensate them for ‘loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and […] mental pain and suffering,’ the verdict form stated.
Phillips went on to call the ruling ‘perplexing’ given that funeral expenses alone cost the family $11,000, and wondered why the jury would award any amount at all if it were only going to award one dollar for each child’s suffering.
The jury found that Hill Jr ‘was under the influence of alcoholic beverages to the extent that his normal faculties were impaired and that as a result of the influence of such alcoholic beverage,’ he was 99 percent liable for the ‘incident and his resulting injuries,’ the verdict form read.
Deputy Christopher Newman was found not liable, and St Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara was found negligent as named in his official capacity, but was only found to be one percent liable.
Mascara said in a statement, ‘We are pleased to see this difficult and tragic incident come to a conclusion,’ and expressed his support for Newman’s actions.
‘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,’ Mascara said. ‘We appreciate the jury’s time and understanding and wish everyone involved in this case the best as they move forward.’
Hill was killed when Deputy Christopher Newman and his partner Deputy Edward Lopez responded to a noise complaint on January 14, 2014.
Hill was reportedly playing loud music that contained expletives, including the n-word, which would be heard outside of his closed garage and a woman picking up her child from the school across the street called the police.
After they knocked on the garage and front doors, Hill partially opened the garage and then quickly started to close it.
When the door started back down, Newman fired, killing Hill. Newman discharged his weapon a total of four times, hitting Hill three times, including once in the head, according to court and police records.
Newman said he fired because he saw Hill produce a firearm.
An unloaded gun was found in Hill’s pocket.
Tests showed Hill’s blood-alcohol content was 0.40, five times the driving limit.
The lawsuit was filed by Hill’s mother in 2016 on the second anniversary of Hill’s death.
The complaint was filed against Newman and Mascara, alleging wrongful death, negligence, excessive force and violations of Hill’s 14th and 15th Amendment rights.
The GoFundMe campaign created for Hill’s children said the following:
‘This gofundme is designed to pick up where the jury left off and provide for Hill’s children. All funds will be turned over to the family attorney for proper safekeeping. Gregory Hill left behind three small children, ages 13, 10 and 7.’
Testimony showed Hill was playing Drake’s ‘All Me,’ from his garage.
SOURCE: The Associated Press; Daily Mail, Stephanie Haney