Cleveland to Pay Kenneth Smith's Family $3.7M: White Cop Pulled Black Man Out of Car, Ordered him to Kneel Down, Placed Gun On Back of his Head & Fired - Still on Force, Called Hero by Prosecutor

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From [HERE] The city of Cleveland agreed on Tuesday to pay the family of a Black man who was shot and killed by a white off-duty police officer in 2012 the sum of $3.7 million as part of a wrongful-death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2013, said that Cleveland police officer Roger Jones used "excessive and unreasonable force" when he shot 20-year-old Kenneth C. Smith in the head during an incident on East 9th Street and Prospect Avenue on March 10, 2012.

Smith's family was later awarded $5.5 million by a jury, but the amount was later lowered to $4 million after the city appealed the decision. 

On Tuesday, the city agreed to the final amount of $3.7 million.

In January a federal appeals court panel on Friday upheld the verdict awarding $4 million. Three judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati affirmed a jury's 2015 finding that Cleveland police officer Roger Jones used excessive force and was civilly liable for the death of 20-year-old Kenny Smith

Jones shot Smith in the back of the head at East 9th Street and Prospect Avenue in March 2012. Police stopped the car because they believed the driver, Devonta Hill, had just fired into a crowd outside Wilbert's Food & Music in downtown Cleveland.

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Then-Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty, [racist suspect in photo] initially cleared Jones of wrongdoing and wrote in an April 2014 letter that the officer "correctly and heroically took action to protect the safety of the citizens of Cleveland." He lost his 2016 re-election bid.

The officer said Smith refused an order to get out of the car, and resisted when Jones tried to pull Smith out of the car, according to a recitation of the facts included in the appellate court’s opinion in January.

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Jones said Smith reached for a gun in the center console, and Jones fired a single shot, the officer said. However, the jury did not find the officer to be credible and his testimony was directly contradicted by physical evidence and witness testimony.

Two eyewitnesses from a different car, Kayla Hodge and Alexis McCray, testified at civil trial that Jones pulled Smith out of the car and ordered him to kneel on the pavement, according to the appellate court’s opinion.

As Smith complied, Jones placed his semi-automatic handgun onto the back of Smith's head and fired a single shot, the witnesses testified.

Investigators found none of Smith's blood in the car. They did find the expelled bullet cartridge from Jones' gun in a puddle of Smith's blood outside the car, according to the opinion.

The 20-year-old man took a few steps away from the car, collapsed and “lay gurgling for breath for many minutes before an ambulance was called,” according to the complaint. [MORE]

McGinty, as well as Cleveland police detectives, concluded that Jones fired as Smith lunged for a gun on the car's center console. But Smith's family, which sued in 2013, asserted at the civil trial that Smith was outside of the car -- and away from the gun -- when Jones shot him. 

However, jurors did not find police testimony to be credible.

After the federal jury in September 2015 found that Jones was liable for Smith's death. It awarded Smith's family $5.5 million, and caused the prosecutor's office to ask the sheriff's department to re-investigate.

The three-judge panel unanimously rejected all of the city's arguments -- including the city's contention that the shooting was objectively reasonable because Smith's elbow was next to a gun found in the car.

"A police officer cannot shoot a person simply because the person is near a gun," the opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge, said.

Jones is still on the city's police force and is assigned to the Third District's community services unit, department spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said. [MORE]

Lawyers representing Smith's family, Terry Gilbert and Jacqueline Greene, celebrated the panel's opinion in January as a moment of accountability in the national conversation on police shootings.

"This was a horrific and heartbreaking shooting," Greene said in a news release. "We hope the outcome of Kenny's case sends a message that unjustified police shootings will not be tolerated."