City Reaches Settlement with Family of Resident Shot by Officers
A Dearborn, Michigan, police officer shot Janet Wilson while she was in her car near Michigan Avenue back in 2016. On August 4th of that year, Attorney A. Vince Colella of the Southfield-based firm Moss & Colella filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Dearborn on behalf of Wilson’s sister, Lori, and her estate. Now, the suburb has agreed to a $1.25 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the woman’s family, while the U.S. Justice Department continues to investigate decision-making policies of Dearborn’s officers.
The settlement was reached on December 6, 2017, but the terms were initially kept confidential. “To preserve the confidentiality of this resolution, the amount of settlement, costs of litigation, attorney’s fees and net disbursement to plaintiffs will be provided to the court on the date of hearing via a confidential exhibit,” the motion stated. The amount was recently released under a public records request by The Associated Press. Dearborn has denied responsibility but stated the city agreed to the terms in order to “amicably resolve” the litigation.
Two years ago, Dearborn police located 31-year-old Wilson after an argument occurred in Fairlane Mall. They were called to the area near Fairlane after mall security reported a “disorderly mental female,” according to reports from the Michigan State Police.
Wilson ended up leaving the shopping center, and Dearborn police stopped her vehicle on Hubbard Drive just west of the Southfield Freeway. Officers ordered her to get out. Instead of complying with this request, however, Wilson allegedly drove the vehicle in the direction of Cpl. James Wade in an apparent attempt to run the man over. The officer fired his weapon four times, killing her.
Wilson reportedly suffered from a history of mental illness, and the Wayne County Probate Court records documented she had caused a disturbance at the center earlier that day and attempted to strike security guards with her vehicle as well. Michigan state police spokesperson, Lt. Mike Shaw, said the woman may not have been carrying a firearm, but was “armed with a 3-ton vehicle.” According to the complaint, no alcohol or drugs were found in her system.
Criminal charges were not pursued against the police department or Cpl. Wade, and Wayne County prosecutor Kim Worth said Wilson “exhibited erratic and aggressive behavior” on the day of her death which made the decision necessary. The prosecutor’s office called the officers response one of justified self-defense.
The family’s payment is to include both tax dollars and insurance funds. Wilson is survived by her mother and six siblings.
In 2016, the United States Justice Department stated it was confident in the Dearborn police force overall, but said it would investigate the department’s use-of-force policies and offer advice if needed. Just one month prior to the confrontation with Wilson, another Dearborn police officer fatally shot local resident, 35-year-old Kevin Matthews, after a foot chase into a backyard in Detroit and physical altercation. While Worthy indicated the officer had a legitimate fear that Matthews would use his gun, a civil lawsuit was subsequently filed and is still pending.
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