The city has agreed to pay $299,000 to settle a Bloomingdale man’s police excessive force lawsuit.
City Council members approved the settlement on Tuesday night following a closed-door meeting with police brass and lawyers.
The lawsuit stemmed from an Oct. 7, 2014 motor vehicle stop. Justin Russo led police on a car chase after allegedly conducting a drug transaction on Godwin Avenue and Carroll Street
Police officers in unmarked vehicles began to pursue him, according to his lawsuit. Russo was “unaware that the persons behind him were police officers in undercover police vehicles, and under the belief that the persons pursuing him were doing so with the intention of robbing him, sped off in his vehicle,” reads the lawsuit. As he was fleeing police, he sideswiped a parked car, states the lawsuit.
Russo began to run on foot after striking the vehicle, according to the complaint. Once Russo “realized that the persons chasing him were police officers, he obliged with their instructions and stopped and got down on his knees.”
Police at the time said Russo drove onto a sidewalk to evade officers sending pedestrians scattering for safety. He was also accused of ramming his car into a police vehicle.
Russo was accused of purchasing six glassines of heroin from an alleged drug dealer. Police charged him with aggravated assault for striking the police car, eluding, resisting arrest, heroin possession, and weapon possession for using his vehicle to strike a police vehicle.
Detectives tackled him before placing him in handcuffs on Straight Street and Hamilton Avenue. The next thing Russo remembers is waking up in a hospital bed with severe injuries to his head, including a compressed skull fracture, according to his court complaint.
Russo alleges police “wrongfully and maliciously targeted, charged, assaulted, brutalized and injured” him.
Council members approved the settlement in an 8-0 vote during the special meeting without making any public comments. Luis Velez was not present for the vote. Municipal officials will pay the settlement over three fiscal years to lessen budgetary pain.
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