Relatives of city man killed by ex-officer file lawsuit

Family seeks $35 million for `emotional trauma'

February 26, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Now that former Baltimore police Officer Rodney Price has pleaded guilty to killing his wife's boyfriend with his service gun, the family of the dead man is seeking millions of dollars in compensation.

They filed a wrongful death suit in Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday asking for $35 million, including $10,000 for funeral expenses.

Price, 35, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder in the death last year of Tristin D. Little Sr. and agreed to a prison sentence of not more than 50 years.

Yesterday's suit was filed on behalf of Little's mother, Emma Brown, and his two children, Tristin D. Little Jr., 9, and Britney J. Ross, 12.

The suit contends that Price was "acting in his capacity" as an officer when he killed Little, 28.

"They want Officer Price to pay for the emotional trauma he's inflicted on the children and mother of Tristin Little Sr.," said Mitchell D. Treger, a lawyer representing the family.

The suit alleges that Price, a 13-year member of the force, "maliciously" and "recklessly" shot Little 21 times with his service weapon, stopping in the middle to reload.

It does not name the Baltimore Police Department, but the department will be added as a defendant, said Domenic R. Iamele, another lawyer representing the family.

"We are confident we can demonstrate the Police Department had prior knowledge of [Price's] instability before this tragedy occurred," Iamele said. "We don't have all those facts yet."

Gary McLhinney, president of the local police union, said Price committed the crime as an individual, not as an officer. Price, who resigned from the force after he was arrested last year, was not on duty when he killed Little.

"I don't think he was acting as a police officer," McLhinney said. "I don't think the Police Department is responsible for the actions of former Officer Price. There's individual accountability."

The details of the case came out in court last month when a state prosecutor explained that on March 16 last year, Price "sneaked up" on Little about 10 p.m. as Little walked outside his Northeast Baltimore home with Price's wife, Charice Price.

According to the prosecutor, Price told Little, "Didn't I tell you not to mess with my wife?" seconds before shooting him in his head and body more than a dozen times. He briefly stopped in the middle of his spree, held the gun to his wife, then resumed shooting Little.

Price was wearing department-issued pants and a blue civilian shirt at the time. The Price children, ages 3 and 10 at the time, were with Price's mother during the incident.

The family maintains Little was not having an affair with Charice Price.

Price is scheduled to be sentenced April 24.

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