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City to approve $8M settlement with police trainee shot in 2013

Baltimore is prepared to pay $8 million to settle a lawsuit with a police trainee who was shot in the head during a training exercise in 2013.

Raymond Gray’s lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department and Officer William Scott Kern was set to go to trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Oct. 21. Less than a week before trial, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III dismissed the case due to a tentative settlement agreement, but attorneys declined to discuss details.

On Monday, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates’ agenda included a memorandum from the Law Department recommending the approval of an $8 million settlement due to the “legal issues, injuries and damages suffered by (Gray) and to avoid the risk and expense of litigation and trial.”

The board will meet Wednesday to approve the agreement.

“We’re satisfied and we’re glad that the city recognized the severity of this tragedy,” attorney A. Dwight Pettit said Monday.

Pettit, who represented Gray along with attorney Allan B. Rabineau, said the amount will be paid in a lump sum.

The settlement is one of the largest in a Baltimore police misconduct case in recent years. The city approved a $9 million settlement last year for a man wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 20 years, an amount that is being paid in installments. Before that, the city paid $6.4 million to Freddie Gray’s family to avoid litigation over his death from injuries sustained in police custody in 2015.

Raymond Gray was training in Owings Mills to be a University of Maryland police officer when Kern used a live weapon to demonstrate the danger of standing in the potential line of fire. Kern said that the use of the live weapon was unintentional and that he meant to use his training weapon. Gray lost an eye and was permanently brain damaged and disabled as a result of the incident.

Gray has amassed approximately $2 million in medical bills since the incident and his long-term care is expected to cost an additional $7 million, according to Pettit.

A federal judge granted portions of the defendants’ summary judgment motions in 2016, then dismissed the remaining claims after the city offered $200,000, the maximum recovery under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, to settle the case.

The plaintiff refused the offer and appealed the dismissal, arguing that Gray was not capped at $200,000 because there was evidence to show Kern had acted with actual malice. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, reviving portions of the lawsuit in 2017.

The appellate panel, in remanding the case to the trial court, found “evidence of Officer Kern’s dangerous and deceptive behavior” in the record, and a fellow officer contradicted Kern’s assertion that there was an agreement that he would carry his service weapon into the facility.

The case is Raymond Gray et al. v. Officer William Scott Kern et al., 1:13-cv-02270.

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