Lawsuit Reinstated Against Officers in Death of Black Off-Duty Cop
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A judge erred in dismissing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of a black off-duty police officer who was fatally shot by two white officers, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said that U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi should have allowed a jury to decide if the city was responsible for improperly training a police officer involved in the shooting death of Sgt. Cornel Young Jr.
The appeals court ruled "that a reasonable jury could find in Young's favor on this training and lack of protocol claim." The court also said it was clear "the (police) department was deliberately indifferent to Cornel's constitutional rights."
The case will now be sent back to trial.
A message left at Leisa Young's home was not immediately returned, and an attorney for the mother did not return a call seeking comment.
Kevin McHugh, senior assistant city solicitor, said the city was prepared for the new trial and that the issue before the court will be much narrower than at the 2003 trial.
Young, the son of a high-ranking city police official, was off duty and in plain clothes when he tried to assist other officers in a disturbance at a diner in January 2000. Two white police officers, supervisor Carlos Saraiva and rookie Michael Solitro, mistook Young for a suspect and fatally shot him after Young failed to drop his weapon.
In 2001, Young's mother sued the city, police department, two former chiefs and a pair of ranking officers for $20 million. Her main charge was that haphazard training and hiring by the department caused her son's death.
During the trial, the all-white jury decided that Solitro, an eight-day rookie, had violated Young's civil rights, but Saraiva had not. Before the jury could assess whether the city was culpable, however, Lisi dismissed the case.
Solitro and Saraiva were cleared by a state grand jury of criminal wrongdoing and by the U.S. attorney's office of federal civil rights violations. At the time of the trial, they both remained on the force.
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