A federal judge has approved a $100,000 settlement for a toddler shot in the foot six years ago by an on-duty Kansas City police officer who fired his service weapon into a car that was evading capture, according to court records.
The officer fired nine rounds, hitting a 1-year-old girl, in August 2015.
The child’s mother will receive a $10,000 lump sum for child care plus $33,000 for attorney expenses under the settlement agreement, which stems from a civil lawsuit filed Oct. 27, 2020 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The remaining money is to be paid into an annuity for the child over three installments beginning in August 2031.
The settlement agreement, approved by Judge Greg Kays on Friday, also releases the defendants — the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Kansas City police officer Terrence Brown — from future legal claims related to the shooting.
Sgt. Jake Becchina, a police spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the department trains its officers “regularly and consistently to respond to rapidly evolving dangerous situations and bring them to a safe resolution while minimizing the risk to the community and the officers involved.”
“The injuries that resulted from this incident are unfortunate, and we are sorry for the pain this family has experienced,” Becchina said.
According to court records, the shooting occurred on Aug. 28, 2015. Brown, an officer with the Kansas City Police Department’s motorcycle unit, attempted to stop a Dodge Magnum on U.S. 71 Highway that was flagged for speeding, the lawsuit says.
Brown ended the pursuit after losing sight of the car but was later alerted by a bystander on the side of the road that it had gone down 53rd Street, according to court records. After arriving at 53rd Street and Wabash Avenue, the lawsuit says, Brown saw the Dodge again and fired upon the car as it drove on Wabash Avenue.
According to the lawsuit, Brown said at the time that the Dodge was traveling in his direction and that “fearing for his safety, dropped his motorcycle, drew his duty weapon and fired” at the car before it struck his motorcycle.
A then-1-year-old girl was struck in the foot by one of the bullets, the lawsuit says, the day before she turned two. She required surgery. Medical bills, paid through Missouri Medicaid, amounted to roughly $37,000, court records show.
The driver of the car and father of the shooting victim, Pierre C. Hill-Williams, was later charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with attempted assault on a law enforcement officer. He pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence with five years probation, court records show.
An investigation referenced in the lawsuit determined nine rounds were fired at the car by Brown. Bullets that entered the car came in through the rear or passenger side, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also claimed that the officer’s account of what transpired was contradicted by witnesses and physical evidence. One witness told investigators he did not know “if they were trying to run him over or just trying to get away,” the lawsuit says. Another witness said the car had turned away from Brown and “couldn’t have hit the officer,” according to the lawsuit.
Also questioned by the lawsuit was some of the physical evidence collected at the scene. It says the scene reconstructions and other physical evidence reports suggest the car was fired upon as it was in flight, and that the car never struck the police motorcycle.
The lawsuit challenged the contention that Brown was “in any reasonable fear for his life or safety, nor could he have been reasonably concerned that the occupants (of the car) would cause harm to him or others.” And it claims Brown acted outside of Kansas City police policy by firing at the car.
It remains unclear whether Brown faced any discipline from the department related to the shooting. Becchina, the police spokesman, said the department cannot disclose information regarding internal investigations or officer discipline under Missouri’s public records law.
Brown remains assigned to the patrol bureau. He has been a Kansas City police officer since September 2009.