City on hook for millions after controversial settlement

August 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Aaron Harrison was shot and killed by Chicago police officers back in 2007.

A jury awarded his family $8.5 million. They initially offered to settle for much less.

The cash-strapped city is on the hook for about $7 million more than necessary because the law department would not settle a controversial police shooting case.

"The officer shot a man who didn't have a weapon, shot an unarmed man," said attorney James Montgomery Jr.

Montgomery says he offered to settle the seven year old lawsuit surrounding the wrongful death of Aaron Harrison for much less $8.5 million.

"The city could have gotten out of this for 1.5 and they knew it," Montgomery said.

The 19-year-old Harrison was shot in the back and killed by a Chicago policeman in August of 2007. His mother, Annie Johnson, offered to settle but Montgomery says the city would not budge.

"The city looked at one view, one side of the evidence," said Montgomery.

Private investigator D.A. Jackson found five witnesses to the daylight shooting who disputed the police claim that Harrison, running from officers, turned and pointed a gun at his pursuers.

"I initially came out and canvassed for witnesses," said Jackson. "No one said they saw him with a gun."

A first trial ended in mistrial. In the second, the defense convinced jurors, that the 9mm handgun with a rusted barrel recovered near the body, with no fingerprints on it, did not belong to Harrison.

Police Garry McCarthy would not comment on the case.

The city law department on refusing the much smaller settlement offer: "In this case the amount demanded by the plaintiff was not reasonable, especially considering that when the case was tried in May, eight of the twelve jurors were in the favor of the city".

"He's working just like you and I are working, as if nothing had ever happened," Montgomery said about the officer who fired the fatal bullet.

In 2009, the Independent Police Review authority ruled the Harrison shooting "justifiable" or within the law. The plaintiff's, though, continued their lawsuit leading to the jury award last week.

The city law department could attempt to appeal the award.

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