The life a Black man who was killed by an officer under unclear circumstances was worth little to nothing, according to a federal court jury’s recent verdict in Florida.
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The family of Gregory Hill, who was killed after a St. Lucie County deputy shot through Hill’s garage in 2014, was awarded a grand total of four cents. The jury blamed the 30-year-old Coca-Cola warehouse worker for his own death.
It wasn’t clear exactly what happened in the encounter between Hill and two deputies who responded to a complaint about loud, obscene music coming from Hill’s home, according to the New York Times. There was also no video evidence or independent witnesses—only the police version.
Deputy Christopher Newman and his partner, Deputy Edward Lopez, reportedly knocked on Hill’s door to resolve the complaint. The garage door opened, and Hill stood facing the officers with his left hand on the garage door and his right hand down. When Hill tried to close the door, Newman pulled out his gun and fired four times through the garage as it came down. A SWAT team arrived later at the scene and found Hill dead with an unloaded 9mm handgun in his back pocket. The officers claimed that Hill was holding the gun when they shot him. A toxicology report found that Hill was drunk during the encounter.
Officials and juries have put a range of price tags on Black lives following police shootings over the past few years.
A Baltimore jury awarded Korryn Gaines’ family more than $37 million in February in a civil right lawsuit. The 23-year-old mother was shot and killed in an August 2016 armed standoff with police in Baltimore County. Jurors believed the police used excessive force to end the standoff.
The jury in Hill’s case didn’t believe that the officers used excessive force, finding that Hill was 99 percent liable for his own death. They placed 1 percent of the blame on the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Department. Newman, who had been cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, was found not liable.
Jurors initially awarded $4 in damages to Hill’s family. That sum was reduced to four cents because it was ruled that the sheriff was only 1 percent liable.
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