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Florida Co. Makes $4 Judgment for Fatal Police Shooting of Black Man

The internet remains abuzz with mostly outrage and shock that a St. Lucie, Florida, jury awarded just $4 in damages for funeral expenses and pain and suffering in a case in which a county deputy fatally shot a Black father of three through his garage door.

Deputy Christopher Newman killed Gregory Hill Jr., 30, in 2014 after a mother picking up her child at a school across the street called in a noise complaint. Newman and another deputy responded to Hill’s home, Hill partially opened the garage door, closed it and Newman fired four times, hitting Hill three times, including once in the head, according to court and police records, according to CNN.

No charges were filed against Newman, who said he shot Hill because he brandished a handgun. Hill’s mother, Viola Bryant, filed a lawsuit against Newman and Sheriff Ken Mascara, alleging wrongful death, negligence, excessive force and violations of Hill’s 14th and 15th Amendment rights.

Bryant also accused a SWAT team that responded to the scene of firing so much tear gas and causing so much damage to Hill’s one-story home that no one can live in it now.

After 10 hours of deliberation last week, a jury found that Newman was not liable in Hill’s death and that Mascara was 1 percent liable. Hill was 99 percent responsible for his own death, the jury ruled, according to court documents.

In deciding damages in the case, the jury awarded Bryant $1 for funeral expenses, and $1 for each child’s “loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and … mental pain and suffering,” verdict forms show. Hill’s children are 7, 10 and 13.

Because the jury found that Mascara was only 1 percent responsible, the verdict was reduced to 4 cents, and then, because the jury found that Hill was drunk at the time, the final payout was nothing.

The decision sparked outrage, first on social media.

“So, if you’re an African American and live in St. Lucie County, Florida, now you know what your life is worth,” Deborah A. Baudoin, a White woman, wrote on Twitter.

“This is why Colin Kaepernick kneels,” Twitter user Aaron Pankonin wrote, referring to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has tried to bring attention to racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

“A jury offered $4 to Gregory Hill Jr.’s family after he was murdered by a St. Lucie County Sheriff Deputy …$1 towards the funeral cost and $1 to each of his three children. SMH, that’s just low down and dirty. Such an insult,” wrote Destyni Danielle.

When Monique Davis heard that $4 was the amount a jury believed her fiancée’s mother and three children deserved for his death in a police shooting, she didn’t bother to listen to the rest of the verdict. She walked out of the courtroom, shaken, according to NBC News.

“My heart just dropped,” Davis recalled. “It was like, are y’all serious?”

The family’s lawyer, John Phillips, also expressed outrage.

“I’d have rather seen a zero than have to tell the children that their pain and suffering for losing their father is only a dollar,” said Phillips, who plans to appeal the verdicts.

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Stacy Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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