A New York city jury has decided that trying to kill a cop can be a lucrative action. In what amounts to getting paid for trying to kill a cop, a 13-time convicted heroin addict was shot by police after he dragged a New York police officer with his car. He was awarded an $11 million payday from a Bronx jury on Wednesday.
A city attorney said the shooting occurred just before noon on Feb. 1, 2006 after then-27-year-old Raoul Lopez skipped a stop sign at East 169th Street and Grand Concourse.
NYPD Sergeant Philippe Blanchard and Officer Zinos Konstantinides initiated a traffic stop and told Lopez to turn off his engine.
Lopez, who was in the middle of a two-week-long bender and had just scored a fix, refused to comply with the officers’ instructions.
Court documents said that when Officer Konstantinides reached into the car to take the keys out of the ignition, Lopez hit the gas, dragging the officer with his car into busy traffic on the Grand Concourse.
The city attorney wrote in court documents that Sgt. Blanchard was afraid “that his partner would be maimed or killed if he did not take immediate, forceful action.”
So, the sergeant fired a single shot and struck Lopez in the neck.
Lopez told the jury that the officers had ordered him at gunpoint to hand over a bag of drugs.
The heroin addict, who had 19 arrests and 13 convictions under his belt, told the jury that he accidentally dropped the bag of drugs and that Sgt. Blanchard shot him in the back of the neck when he tried to pick it up.
Lopez was transported to Lincoln Hospital for surgery and was ultimately left with partial paralysis on the right side of his body as a result of the bullet that struck his spinal cord.
He was arrested and charged with vehicular assault but eventually acquitted of that charge.
Lopez filed his lawsuit against the city in 2007..
Court documents showed that his attorney, Brett Klein, asked the jury to award Lopez $6 million to $9 million for lost wages as a result of the shooting. Ironically, Lopez was unemployed when he was shot.
The trial in the Bronx Supreme Court lasted seven days. It took the jury only one hour of deliberation to return its verdict.
The jury voted unanimously to award Lopez $11 million despite the fact he’d been in the process of trying to kill a police officer when he was shot.
“Raoul Lopez was an unarmed motorist who was needlessly shot in the back of his neck during what the police described as a routine traffic stop,” his lawyer Brett Klein said. “He was at first a quadriplegic, and through hard work he has made great progress. But the loss of the function of his right arm and other permanent effects of this shooting will be with him for the rest of his life. We are grateful that a Bronx jury has held the City accountable for this wrongful shooting.”
To add insult to injury, an internal NYPD review determined that Sgt. Blanchard’s shooting of Lopez to save Officer Konstantinides was not within department guidelines.
Despite that, the city has stood behind the sergeant’s version of events.
“The split-second response by an officer likely stopped this driver from dragging an officer to his death, a response we believe was justified under the circumstances,” city law department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said in a statement. “We strongly disagree with this verdict and are reviewing the city’s legal options.”
Officer Konstantinides has since retired from the NYPD, but Sgt. Blanchard remains on active duty in the Bronx.
So, to recap, an unemployed junkie can try to kill a cop with his car and gets awarded $11 million in lost wages for injuries he received in the process.
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Meanwhile, a jury in another state has decided that a homeowner is owed nothing after a man broke into his home to hide from cops and it was subsequently destroyed by the department’s SWAT team.
Quoting Fox News, the house was destroyed by 19 hours of gunfire between officers and an armed shoplifting suspect who had chosen to barricade himself inside to evade arrest.
Judges on the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court’s decision, ruling that the city of Greenwood Village, near Denver, did not owe homeowner Leo Lech any additional compensation, even though the suspect was a stranger to the homeowner, the Denver Post reported.
Lech’s home, valued at $580,000, was marked for demolition in 2015 after a SWAT team used armored vehicles to breach the structure, deployed tear gas and explosives and shot 40 mm rounds in an effort to drive the suspect out after he refused to surrender and shot at officers. The suspect broke into the house when no one was home to use it as a hideout.
“The bottom line is that destroying somebody’s home and throwing them out in the street by a government agency for whatever circumstances is not acceptable in a civilized society,” Lech told the Post. “It destroyed our lives completely.”
Lech was renting his house to his son, John, who lived there with his girlfriend and her son, but they were not at home at time of the incident. The city had initially paid Lech $5,000 in temporary living assistance. John Lech moved in with his parents and his girlfriend’s son had to change schools.
Lech’s attorney told the Post that his home insurance company paid him $345,000 for the damage but that amount did not come close to covering additional costs related to personal property damage, demolishing and rebuilding the home and taking out a new mortgage on the new house.
“It’s a miracle insurance covered any of it in the first place,” attorney Rachel Maxam told the Post. “Insurance is for fires, floods. There’s no ‘police blew up my house’ insurance.”
She added that a home next door that suffered about $70,000 in damage was not compensated by its insurance company. The court’s decision said the police department and the city were not liable for damage caused to the property because officers were acting in their lawful role to arrest a criminal suspect.
“The Courts, both State and Federal who have analyzed this matter, have consistently ruled in favor of the police actions taken to resolve this critical incident,” Greenwood Village said in a statement. “The Courts have recognized that while these types of events present difficult questions, the police should value life over property and may act pursuant to their police powers accordingly.”
Lech said he plans to appeal to case to the Supreme Court.
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