Posted March 13, 2008 - Finding that two Pennsylvania state troopers intentionally shot to death a 12-year-old Black boy on Christmas Eve six years ago, a jury Wednesday awarded the victim’s father $28 million in damages.
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The jury rejected assertions by Trooper Samuel Nassan, who testified that he fired at Michael Ellerbe because he heard a gunshot and thought the boy had shot at his partner, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Cpl. Juan Curry said his gun went off by mistake when he scaled a fence in pursuit of an unarmed Michael, who was fleeing a stolen car. "This is not about money. This is about justice," said Geoffrey Fieger, a lawyer for Michael Hickenbottom, the boy's father. "The jury has determined unanimously that these officers shot a little boy in the back and arm and lied about it."
Said Hickenbottom, "I'm not out to make history. I'm out to find answers about my son's death. I just want to know – why did [they] shoot him in the back?"
Andrew Fletcher, a lawyer for the troopers, promised he would appeal. "This obviously is an enormously disappointing verdict that, in our view, is not at all supported by the evidence," Fletcher told reporters, the Post-Gazette reported. "Trooper Nassan has been consistent throughout. He believed he was certain his partner had been shot."
The FBI, state police and the Fayette County District Attorney have all said they saw no reason to try the officers on criminal charges.
Mary Beth Buchanan, a U.S. attorney, said Tuesday that she might be willing to review the case for possible criminal charges. "I will review the transcript of the civil trial to determine whether reopening the federal criminal investigation is warranted," she said, the Post-Gazette reported.
Should the feds bring charges against the officers?