Excessive force lawsuit headed for million-dollar settlement

FLINT TWP. — A federal court hearing to settle a $1.390 million wrongful death lawsuit against the township is set for Nov. 30 in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The case involved the shooting death of Dominique Lewis, 23, who was killed by a township police officer during a traffic stop on Flushing Road in July 2014.

The suit was filed in April 2015 by Lewis’ mother Carmita Lewis naming Flint Township and Office Matt Needham as the defendants.

In August 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that Needham was not entitled to qualified immunity which protects public officials from being sued. The ruling was based on dash-cam video showing the actions of Officer Needham during the shooting. Evidence showed that Lewis, a passenger in the stopped vehicle, was shot after climbing into the driver’s seat and attempting to flee the scene. After being shot, he crashed the vehicle and died soon afterward.

The township board of trustees met with its attorney in closed session on November 20 to discuss details of the settlement.

According to court documents, Carmita Lewis has tentatively agreed to the $1.390-mlllion settlement. Court papers also show that about $500,000 of that will be paid to the Johnson Law Firm, representing Lewis, to cover attorney fees and costs. Additional funds of about $10,000 are ordered to be paid for probate attorney fees and a temporary trust account for Johnson Law to cover contingent costs.

Township officials referred all comment to its attorney G. Gus Morris of McGraw Morris P.C. in Troy.

”The people that insure police officers these days are extremely reluctant to try cases that involve police because of anti-police sentiment,” Morris said.

Despite agreement to the settlement, Morris said that township officials and its insurer believe that the dash-cam video of the event established that the officer did not use excessive force in the circumstances that he was faced with. Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, Michigan State Police independently investigated the shooting and concluded that it was justified under Michigan law, according to Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. Citing self-defense, Leyton declined to prosecute Needham.

Lewis’ lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

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