Friday, October 08, 2010

Mother of former East Henderson football star says son's name cleared: Family, Florida police reach settlement

In 44 days, the family of the late Vernon Jones, a former East Henderson High football standout who graduated in 2002, will receive a monetary settlement of $500,000 stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit against the police officer who shot Jones in 2007.

For the family, it provides some closure to a case that's been ongoing for more than three years.

What happened

In the spring of 2007, Jones was shot and killed by West Palm Beach, Fla., police officer Shawn Phillips after a disturbance call. Jones was 23 years old. Phillips claimed he used self-defense, fearing for his life.

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a state attorney's office ruling and an internal police probe cleared Phillips.

Jones' mother, Lenora, was outraged. “Because I knew the type of person my son was, I already knew it was unjustified,” she said Tuesday. “I think the police knew what they did was wrong, but they still won't admit it.”
What happened

According to police records, at 10:40 p.m. on April 14, 2007, Phillips was called to the Briar Bay neighborhood in West Palm Beach to investigate reports of a barefoot Jones going door to door, looking for a place to sleep and begging for food.

Phillips confronted Jones and a fist-fight ensued, according to witnesses cited in a Sun Sentinel story in 2007. Phillips told his fellow officers that Jones hit him in the face with a glass bottle during the fight. He also told investigators the fight went on for about two minutes and spilled out onto the street. He said in fear of his life, he drew his gun and shot Jones, killing him.

Two other eyewitnesses told a different story, the paper reported. They said Phillips subdued Jones and bent him over the hood of the patrol car. They said Phillips then pushed Jones to the ground and shot him four times as he tried to get back up. Medical examiner reports supported these claims.

The lawsuit

After Phillips was cleared, Lenora filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against him, the city of West Palm Beach, Police Chief Delsa Bush, the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association and two union representatives, alleging wrongful death, assault and battery and fraud and seven other counts.

“It was pretty egregious what happened, and I think the follow-up investigation was a travesty,” attorney Catherine Rodriguez, who represented Lenora, told the Sun Sentinel. “I would call it a cover-up.”

The lawsuit also stated that after Jones died, city police union representatives rushed Phillips from the scene to the hospital, coaching him on the way before he talked to investigators.

Another strong point for the lawsuit was Phillips' past behavior. The officer had been disciplined five times during his tenure for poor “conduct toward the public” since 2002, according to police records.

Partial justice

On Sept. 29, the half-million dollar settlement was reached, said assistant Hendersonville High football coach Chuck Roper.

“They settled out of court,” said Roper, a longtime friend of the family. “That shows you right there they knew they were wrong. Vernon needs to have his name cleared. He didn't deserve to die the way he did.”

Lenora said that just a few weeks ago, she and her lawyer were preparing for the trial. “The police kept saying they were preparing for the trial, too, then they reached the settlement,” she said. “They still deny they did anything wrong.” She said the main reason she agreed to the lawsuit was to clear her son's name.

Original report here

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I just found out about shawn retiring because of this bullsh*t lawsuit brought on by that guys family. I dont know the guy who got killed but i can say this much for shawn- i have known him for 11+ years and he is a stand up, honest, great guy. Any officer you ask that worked with him would say the same. I will never EVER believe those supposed witnesses statements for ONE second. Shawn would never execute someone and could hold his own in any fight so if he needed to shoot the guy IT WAS JUSTIFIED!!! He was NOT a hothead nor did he need to prove he was a tough guy- you civilians will never get it..the split second decisions required to be made when your a cop are something you all pass judgment on, but are too cowardly to go into the academy become cops and make them yourselves. It makes me SiCK to read and see the morons like you tear someone apart because of their skin color IS or ISNT..
As far as his being reprimanded for not bein nicey-nice to someone in the city... Give me a BREAK! Saying a swear word in public can get a cop in trouble with the right ( Or WRONG in this case!) supervisor! Have each and every person out there reading his ALWAYS been super nice to customers/clients in their profession???? ANY dipsh*t in the public can make a complaint and if there is a supervisor who doesnt like you for whatever reason-legit or not-whether the complaint is to get back at a cop or not- it can be entered in that officers permenant file.. So his the officer wasnt being warm and fuzzy complaints are ABSURD to use to support your assesment of shawns record or him as a person Or his justification to shooting he guy.
Bottom line is i know Shawn and i WOULD and HAVE trusted him with my life (and im not his wife or family either) and would follow him into a dangerous situation any day of the week- HE IS AN HONORBLE STAND UP GUY and i can say that about so few people. And what about the poor x football star everyone loved so much but got into the "wrong crowd" and made bad drug related choices??? He MADE those choices just like he MADE the choice to attack shawn UN PROVOKED- i have ZERO PITY for him or his mom-she shouldve taught his ass better and at the very least NOT MADE F*CKIN EXCUSES FOR HIM WHETHER IN LIFE OR DEATH! OR made A PROFIT offf of him.. The whole fact that she sued and the city settled Makes me want to vomit