Little Rock Settles With Family of Shooting Victim

     LITTLE ROCK (CN) — The city of Little Rock will pay about $900,000 to settle claims by the family of a 67-year-old black man shot dead in 2010 by two off-duty police officers who entered his apartment without a warrant.
     The settlement, disclosed Friday by City Attorney Tom Carpenter, also includes a memorial bench and an apology letter but doesn’t admit liability, according to reports by the Associated Press.
     An attorney for Ellison’s family didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.
     Ellison’s family filed a federal civil rights suit in 2011, accusing the officers of using excessive force for the deadly shooting and violating their father’s constitutional rights with their warrantless entry without evidence of crime.
     Ellison’s son is a Little Rock police officer.
     Officer Donna Lesher and detective Tabitha McCrillis had been working off-duty as security on Dec. 9, 2010, when they were patrolling the Big Country Chateau apartments in Little Rock.
     Noting an open apartment door, they peered in and saw 67-year-old Eugene Ellison sitting on his couch and leaning on his cane. They testified that the apartment was disheveled, and Ellison was sitting behind a broken glass table.
     Lesher and McCrillis asked Ellison if he was OK, and received a vague answer — “What does it look like?” Telling the officers he did not want their help, Ellison said to leave him alone.
     McCrillis thought Ellison was being “mouthy” with her, walked into the apartment, and asked Ellison what was his problem, according to court records.
     Ellison stood up and approached the officers. Then McCrillis shoved Ellison, Ellison pushed her back, and a physical altercation began. The officers repeatedly struck Ellison, knocking off his glasses, while he repeatedly told them to get out of his apartment.
     Though the officers commanded him to lie down on the ground, Ellison refused and at some point reached for his cane. Lesher then fired two shots, killing the old man.
     In August of last year, the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit agreed with a federal judge’s ruling that Lesher and McCrillis were not entitled to immunity for their actions.
     But prosecutors declined to pursue charges after finding that other non-lethal means had failed.
     A Department of Justice civil rights probe was closed because of a lack of evidence needed to bring criminal charges. The two white officers remain on the force.
     The family’s civil rights lawsuit was set to go to trial Monday before details of a settlement emerged.

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