The parents of a suicidal Black teenager who was fatally shot by police in 2020 in Nevada have agreed to a $2 million settlement with the city of Sparks that also includes more crisis intervention and mental health training for police officers.
The city of about 110,000 on the edge of Reno said in a statement Monday it hopes the agreement helps bring “closure” to all parties.
Miciah Lee, 18, Sparks, had no criminal history and was not wanted for any crime when a white officer shot him five times while he was sitting in his car with a handgun between his legs and his hands in plain sight on Jan. 5, 2020, his family’s lawyer, Terri Keyser-Cooper, said.
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But she said Lee did have a long history of mental illness and drug abuse, and that the officers’ rush to violence defied any limited training they had received to diffuse such confrontations.
Lee’s mother, Susan Clopp, called 911 shortly before the shooting and told the dispatcher three times her son was “mentally unstable,” had a gun and intended to “die by cop or die by himself.”
One of the officers who responded to the scene after Lee fled an initial attempt to confront him and crashed in a suburban neighborhood said in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court last year before the settlement talks that they “did everything they were trained not to do with mentally ill persons.”
A federal judge ordered mediation and the parties said last month they had reached a settlement. The city’s insurance company completed the final installment of the $2 million in payments on May 18, lawyer Keyser-Cooper said.
“The size of this settlement speaks volumes,” said Keyser-Cooper, who alleged Lee would still be alive if he was white.
“I am greatly encouraged that Sparks has promised to provide to its officers more training, with oversight to ensure officers act pursuant to their training, and a tragedy like this will not occur again,” she said in a statement late Friday.
As part of the settlement, Keyser-Cooper said Sparks agreed that all officers will receive 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training and that each year all Sparks police officers will receive refresher training.
In addition, each officer will receive annual training on some additional new policies which include: Use of Force, Suicidal Subject Response, and Interacting With Persons Suffering From Behavioral Health Issues, she said.
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The city of Sparks confirmed in a statement emailed to The Associated Press on Monday that the city’s insurance carrier hired outside counsel to handle the case and that the parties agreed to settle it for $2 million during a settlement conference in Las Vegas.
“The City of Sparks is hopeful that all parties involved will get closure after this settlement,” the statement said.
About six months after the shooting, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks cleared Sparks police of any wrongdoing. His office was not part of the civil case and declined comment on the settlement on Monday.
The lawsuit filed in 2022 said Lee’s death was an unjustifiable homicide that resulted from a “police culture in Sparks” — a “police department so poorly trained that it had a history of failing to investigate, analyze, or even talk to any officers involved in any police shootings for the past 15 years.”
The lawsuit also alleged the Sparks Police Department failed to sufficiently train officers on how to interact with the mentally ill and systematically, failed to de-escalate as required when interacting with the mentally ill.
Former Sparks Police Chief Peter Krall testified that responding officers knew what they were required to do and their conduct in failing to utilize their training was an “aberration.”
“However, it was anything but an aberration: It was a highly predictable consequence of system-wide failures,” Keyser-Cooper wrote in the original lawsuit.
“It is consistent with a pattern endemic in SPD — but also throughout the country—that, when encountering mentally ill persons, officers all too frequently choose violence as their first resort,” she said.
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