polo v neck t shirts Greenville settles suit with family of man who died struggling with police
The city of Greenville and the family of a 39 year old man with schizophrenia who died after struggling with Greenville police officers have settled a federal lawsuit that alleged wrongful death, attorneys for the city and the man’s family said Monday. District Judge J. Michelle Childs.
Hank Ehlies, a Greenville attorney for Beatriz Torres Dennis, the plaintiff in the suit representing the estate of her brother, Andrew Orval Torres, confirmed the family reached a settlement with the city. It must be formally approved by the court, Ehlies said.
Torres, a 39 year old man with schizophrenia, died after struggling with Greenville police officers who stunned him with Tasers. His family sued the city, six police officers and Terri Wilfong, who was police chief at the time, according to federal court records.
Wilfong, who retired as chief April 15, was terminated as a defendant in June, court records show. District Court alleged wrongful death “for use of excessive force by deploying multiple Tasers over an extended time and improper physical restraint technique” against officers who were called to Torres’ Augusta Street home in August 2010 to carry out a probate judge’s order sought by his family to take him to a hospital.
It also alleged that plaintiffs violated Torres’ constitutional rights and that Wilfong “failed to promulgate adequate policies and failed to supervise her subordinates who use unconstitutional levels of force in taking mentally ill citizens into protective custody.”
The suit sought compensatory and punitive damages.
In its answer to the suit, the defendants, represented by attorney W. Howard Boyd, Jr., denied the allegations.
Officers Kevin Hill, Eric Koepke and Dale Dirton were cleared of criminal wrongdoing six months after the incident in a decision the chief prosecutor in the case said “wasn’t even a close call.”
The prosecutor, Kevin Brackett of York and Union counties, took the case to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest between local prosecutors and law enforcement. Dean and A. Johnson.
Judge Childs ordered the case into mediation.
Police at the time of the incident said Andrew Torres refused to cooperate and scuffled with officers. Torres died from cardiac arrhythmia as a result of having an enlarged heart, the use of Tasers and the physical strain of tussling with police,
Greenville County Coroner Parks Evans said.
Torres, a graduate of Greenville High School and the University of South Carolina Spartanburg, began to experience symptoms of schizophrenia of the paranoid type at the age of 21 and was formally diagnosed with that condition in 1992, according to the lawsuit.
His illness was managed through medication and family support, the suit said, and from time to time his medication would be ineffective. When that happened, “he would become irrational and hyper paranoid. He would generally refuse voluntary medical treatment,” the suit said.
Greenville police had been called on numerous occasions to take Torres to the hospital emergency room for treatment and therefore knew about “his serious medical conditions,” according to the suit.
“They were also on notice that confrontational and aggressive tactics were counter productive in peacefully taking Andrew into custody and produced a physical reaction of passive resistance to avoid being taken to the hospital,” according to the suit.
Sometimes the police department sent out people in plain clothes “who were, upon information and belief, properly trained” to take Torres into custody without incident, according to the suit.
In its answer to the suit, the defendants said police had been called to take Torres into protective custody prior to Aug. 9, 2010, and were “generally aware of his mental illness, and had on occasion used plain clothes officers to take Torres into custody.”
However, the defendants said in the court filings they “would specifically allege and show unto the court that Torres had a pattern and practice of hostile, threatening or unlawful behavior toward members of his family and/or the public, and of engaging in violent, aggressive and unlawful behavior toward law enforcement.”
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