A jury recently awarded the family of Ruth Helen Harrion $1 million in damages.
A $1 million lawsuit settlement was recently awarded to the family of a 67-year-old Jackson woman, Ruth Helen Harrion, who was killed back in 2014 when police “bungled the woman’s 911 call about a prowler.” The settlement was awarded by a Hinds County Circuit Court jury. According to Dennis Sweet III, the attorney representing Harrion’s family said if police “would have followed policy and procedures, more likely than not, it would have saved her life… I hope this verdict sends a message that the city needs to get things right.”
What happened, though? Well, according to the lawsuit, Harrion contacted 911 to report a prowler. However, the “dispatcher failed to keep her on the phone, failed to ask the location of the prowler and whether she could see the prowler.” Eight minutes later, two officers arrived and knocked on the door, but no one answered, so they left. The suit argues that the officers dispatched to her home “failed to make contact with her and failed to search the perimeter of the home prior to leaving the residence.”
Unfortunately, Harrion’s body was eventually found behind her home nearly 11 hours later by family members, not the police. According to the suit, “she had been beaten, strangled and shot in the face.” Additionally, her neck had also been broken, and “it appeared she had been sexually assaulted,” according to Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham Stewart.
When commenting on the matter, then-Jackson Police Chief Lindsey Horton said the “JPD mishandled the case.” For example, he noted that “the two officers failed to thoroughly check the property from which the call had originated.” He added:
“They should have made contact with the complainant. They should have made contact with her to make sure of her welfare. But they did not do that…We have a practice and policy in place, and on this occasion, I think they did not follow that.”
Alonzo Stewart, 33, was the prowler Harrion contacted 911 about. He has since been charged with capital murder and confessed to the crime. During the investigation, he told police “he was in Harrion’s home when the officers came and left.”
Shortly after the settlement was awarded, the family issued the following statement:
“The family of Ruth Helen Harrion and her attorneys are pleased that the City of Jackson was found to be responsible for failing to react to her 911 call appropriately. This, however, is just one part of the justice they are seeking. Family members continue to wait for the man who brutally raped and killed Mrs. Harrion to be held accountable for his crimes.”
Sweet also chimed in and said, “I hope this verdict sends a message that the city needs to get things right.”