Monday, May 23, 2016

Englewood pays $125,000 to settle lawsuit filed by man who claimed police shot him in the leg, fabricated evidence.

On April 11, 2016, the City of Englewood (Bergen County) agreed to pay $125,000 to an African-American man who said that a City police officer shot him in the leg and that officers lied and fabricated evidence.

In his suit, Edward M. Smalls said that on December 12, 2009, a female whose home he was visiting falsely reported to police that he was harassing her.  When Officer Michael Hargrave arrived, Smalls, who claimed that he "heard someone approaching him from the rear," ran away without realizing that his pursuer was a a police officer.  Smalls claimed that Hargrave shot him in the leg with his service revolver.

Smalls claimed that Hargrave other Englewood officers concocted a story that Smalls "came toward [Hargrave] with a razor blade" causing him to be arrested and held under $500,000 bail.  He claimed that the Bergen County Prosecutor's office failed to properly investigate and that he was ultimately acquitted of all charges except for a harassment, which is a disorderly persons offense.

Also named in the suit were various officials from Bergen County and Bergen County Prosecutor's office.  It is presently unknown whether the county settled separately with Smalls.

The case is captioned Smalls v. Englewood, et al, Federal Case No. :11-cv-07210 and Smalls' attorney was Robert Blossner of Morristown.  Case documents are on-line here.

None of Smalls' allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants.  All that is known for sure is that Englewood or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Smalls $125,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.