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Saturday 22 July 2017

Settlement reached in lawsuit over Michael Brown's shooting death in Ferguson

The fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown sparked widespread protests
The fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown sparked widespread protests

A US judge has approved a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager whose shooting by a white police officer nearly three years ago set off months of protests.

Financial terms of the settlement approved by US District Judge E Richard Webber were not disclosed. Anthony Gray, the lawyer for Mr Brown's parents, declined to comment as did Ferguson mayor James Knowles III.

Michael Brown Sr and Lezley McSpadden sued the city, former police chief Tom Jackson and former police officer Darren Wilson in 2015.

They argued that the death of their 18-year-old son deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages.

The lawsuit also described the police culture in Ferguson, Missouri, as hostile to black residents, and said Mr Wilson used excessive and unreasonable force in shooting Brown during a confrontation on a street on August 9 2014.

Ferguson, Mr Jackson and Mr Wilson denied the allegations.

Mr Wilson was cleared of wrongdoing but the shooting led to violent unrest in Ferguson, a St Louis suburb.

He resigned from the police force in November 2014 soon after a St Louis County grand jury announced he would not be indicted. The US Department of Justice also found no grounds to prosecute him.

But the investigation led to a Justice Department lawsuit over racially biased police and court practices. A settlement called for significant changes in operations, including sensitivity training for officers, adoption of community policing techniques, court reforms and other measures.

The process is expected to cost more than 2 million dollars (£1.5 million) and could take years.

Judge Webber's three-page ruling discloses nothing about the settlement amount, but said it is "fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests of each plaintiff", with the money to be split between Michael Brown Sr and Ms McSpadden.

The judge also wrote that the agreement "shall remain sealed by this court and shall be considered a closed record" because disclosure of the information "could jeopardise the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators".

Settlements involving public money and public entities such as cities are typically open under Missouri law, but Judge Webber wrote that the value of opening the record "is outweighed by the adverse impact to plaintiffs".

AP

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