Settlement reached in fatal police shooting

Montgomery Co. officials to pay $2 million to family of man killed in traffic stop

August 10, 1999|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

The family of a man accidentally shot to death in April by a police officer during a traffic stop has been given $2 million as part of a settlement agreement with Montgomery County officials.

Junious W. Roberts Jr., 44, was fatally shot April 14 in Wheaton by Montgomery County police officer Sean Thielke, who said his gun discharged accidentally during a brief struggle. A grand jury declined to indict Thielke. Roberts' family sued, hiring noted attorney Johnnie L. Cochran.

In the settlement agreement, county officials agreed to pay $2 million to Roberts' relatives and also to recommend that $1 million be spent on Police Department training, new video cameras to be placed in patrol cars and recruitment of minority officers.

Roberts was black and Thielke is white. The shooting prompted criticism from African-American activists who said Montgomery County police have a history of racial harassment.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said the settlement agreement is meant to "bring some measure of closure" for Roberts' family and the community.

"This was a terrible accident that, sadly, resulted in a tragic loss of life," Duncan said. "This agreement reaffirms our commitment to providing the best police services anywhere in the country."

Cochran said that the settlement was worked out with the best interests of the family in mind.

"Out of the dark cloud occasioned by the tragic death of Junious W. Roberts Jr., a silver lining has emerged in which Mr. Roberts' children and other family members will be amply provided for," Cochran said.

Thielke pulled Roberts over in a shopping center, suspecting that the car might have been stolen. Roberts, who had a history of arrests for battery, resisting arrest and burglary, was alleged by Thielke to have struck him in the face.

Thielke said that his gun went off as he reached in the car to pull Roberts out. The bullet entered his back and traveled into the abdomen.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said part of the settlement agreement will go toward programs to foster better race relations between police and the public.

"If there is a perception that our Police Department is engaged in racial profiling, we need to take every step to eliminate that perception," Moose said.

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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