Settlement finalized between City of Lawrence, motorist who was shot during altercation with Lawrence police officer
photo by: Lawrence Police Department
The $80,000 settlement between the City of Lawrence and a Black driver who was shot by a rookie police officer after a traffic stop turned violent has been finalized.
The driver, Akira Lewis, filed an excessive-force lawsuit in September 2019 against former Lawrence Police Officer Brindley Blood, who shot him, as well as additional claims against the other officer involved in the traffic stop, the City of Lawrence, its police department and the police chief. The lawsuit alleges in part that Blood used excessive force against Lewis and that the city and its police department failed to properly train and supervise officers. The city has denied those claims.
The case was moved from Douglas County District Court to U.S. District Court because the allegations fall under the Civil Rights Act. The parties have previously agreed to dismiss the now former police chief, Gregory Burns, and the other officer involved in the traffic stop, Ian McCann, from the lawsuit. The lawsuit accused both Blood and McCann of battery, and accused both officers and the city of Lawrence of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Blood could never be summoned for the case despite multiple efforts.
The final court documents needed to dismiss the remaining defendants — Blood, the city and the police department — were filed with the court on Friday, finalizing the settlement. Specifically, Lewis’ attorneys filed a stipulation of dismissal for the remaining defendants calling for Lewis’ claims to be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be filed again.
The city has denied Lewis’ claims, and continued to deny liability in the settlement agreement. The settlement states in part that the parties jointly acknowledge that the claims and the lawsuit “were and are vigorously disputed.” The settlement states that the agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability, responsibility or fault by the city.
The shooting occurred on May 29, 2018, in the 100 block of West Sixth Street, at the north end of downtown, after McCann pulled Lewis over for a seat-belt violation as part of a seat-belt enforcement campaign. In police dashcam video, Lewis contends he was racially profiled, declines to provide McCann his license and registration and instead demands that a supervisor be called. The discussion continues, and when Lewis persists in asking for a supervisor and does not comply with requests, McCann attempts to physically pull him from the car, saying that Lewis is “going to jail.” Lewis subsequently strikes and body slams McCann. Blood shoots Lewis within seconds after the physical altercation begins. As seen in the video, Blood yelled “Taser” before firing and later told investigators that she meant to use her Taser but mistakenly drew her gun.
As part of the settlement agreement, the city has agreed to pay Lewis $80,000 and the cost of the mediation, which court documents indicate totaled $3,475. Sean Sturdivan, an attorney representing the city, told the Journal-World in an email that the city’s insurance carrier is covering those costs. The Lawrence City Commission has publicly voted to approve some settlement agreements in the past, but Sturdivan said that since the city itself is not paying the settlement amount, the settlement agreement was not placed on a City Commission agenda.