Family of Ohio Man Killed by an Officer While Sleeping Awarded $4.4 Million

Screenshot:  WTOL News (Fair Use)
Screenshot: WTOL News (Fair Use)

A jury decided Tuesday to award the family of a man shot and killed by a Euclid, Ohio police officer $4.4 million, according to a report by The jury trial decision comes after a wrongful death suit filed after the 2017 incident.

Luke Stewart, 23, was sleeping in his car when officers approached him, reports say. They responded to a call by a neighborhood resident who didn’t recognize Stewart’s vehicle parked on the street. No officer identified themselves but when Stewart woke up, he tried to drive off. The officers opened his car doors and forced him out of his vehicle by trying to climb inside. Officer Matthew Rhodes wrestled him out the car and fired a shot into his neck.

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The jury held Rhodes must pay Stewart’s family $3.9 million for their loss and $500,000 for the pain and suffering Stewart endured when he was killed, per court documents. Stewart’s attorneys had originally suggested over $11 million, $150 a day to his two children for 54 years. Rhodes was not required to pay the family punitive damages or attorney’s fees.

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Attorneys Marcus Sidoti and Sarah Gelsomino, who represented Stewart’s family, told and The Plain Dealer that the verdict provided long-awaited accountability for what happened to Stewart.

“I hope this sends a really clear message to the city of Euclid that the community is not going to tolerate this type of policing any more,” Gelsomino said.

Still, Sidoti said the family viewed the verdict as a “double-edged sword.”

“Luke’s still not here,” Sidoti said. “They didn’t win Luke back, they just got some financial support and accountability from the jury for Rhodes.”

Rhodes was forced to go to trial after a county judge ruled he was not protected under qualified immunity, the report says. However, a grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges.

Making Rhodes pay up for his actions is accountability to a certain degree. It would look more like justice if these officers were prosecuted for their actions in the same way citizens would be.

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