The family of Eurie Stamps, a black man who was shot and killed by police while unarmed in 2011, will receive a $3.75 million settlement from the town of Framingham, officials announced.
Stamps, who was 68 at the time, was accidentally shot by a Framingham police officer while he lay on the floor with his hands up during a SWAT team raid on his home.
The SWAT team raided on a suspicion that a family member was selling drugs, according to court documents, but officers did not suspect Stamps of any crimes.
Stamps's family brought a case against that officer, Paul Duncan, and the town of Framingham for wrongful death. The ACLU of Massachusetts has supported the Stamps family in the case.
“The settlement, and the court rulings that denied the officer’s effort to toss out the family’s claims, confirm that Mr. Stamps’s life mattered, and so do the lives of all people who come into contact with police," said ACLU staff attorney Adriana Lafaille. "According to the Stamps family’s experts, officers placed Mr. Stamps’ life in senseless danger to conduct a routine drug search. Two courts powerfully confirmed that what happened to Mr. Stamps was unacceptable, and they’re right. The war on drugs cannot be an excuse for indifference to the lives of Black and Brown people.”
In the settlement's announcement, the Board of Selectmen "recognized that no sum of money will compensate for the grief, sorrow and loss experienced by the Stamps family," according to a statement from the town.
“Of the hundreds of cases I have handled as Town Counsel since 2001, this case has been the most troubling," Town Counsel Christopher Petrini said. "While a financial settlement cannot fully compensate for their loss, I hope this settlement and the dismissal of the case will help the family achieve some degree of closure from this difficult experience."
Stamps was a retired MBTA maintenance worker and grandfather of 12.
The town and the local police department said they have taken steps to ensure that this doesn't happen again.
Since the tragic incident, the Framingham Police Department SWAT Team has been disbanded and now the town collaborates with the Massachusetts State Police SWAT team.
Both the town of Framingham and the police department have partnered with the Framingham Comes Together initiative organized by the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association as part of efforts to improve "racial understanding."
The police department is currently exploring the option of a body camera pilot program as well as introducing tasers as an alternative to gun use.
"The Framingham Police Department has provided additional training to our officers and will continue to do so," Framingham Police Chief Kenneth Ferguson said in a statement. "Our goal is to provide the highest level of police services to the residents of Framingham and to prevent as much as humanly possible any other family from experiencing the sorrow that the Stamps family has endured."
Stamps was shot while lying on his stomach in his apartment. Duncan approached Stamps and pointed his rifle at Stamps "for the purpose of protecting himself and sending a message that Stamps should not move or do anything threatening," according to court documents.
Duncan pulled the trigger and shot Stamps in the face.
"At no point did Stamps do anything to suggest that he was a threat to the police or anyone else, or to suggest that he was not cooperating," court documents state. "The parties agree that Duncan did not intent to pull the trigger or injure Stamps."
The U.S. Appeals Court affirmed in February a lower court's ruling that Duncan was not immune from liability.
"We are satisfied that the settlement represents some justice, but it cannot bring Eurie back," Norma Stamps, Eurie's Widow, said in a statement from her lawyer's office.
The statement describes Stamps as a "loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to many."
"We are pleased that the civil rights laws held the Framingham police accountable for this completely senseless shooting of an innocent man, my father," said Eurie's son, Eurie Stamps Jr., in the statement.