Baltimore paid $500,000 to settle a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by relatives of an unarmed man who was fatally shot by a police officer during a frantic scuffle three years ago, city officials said yesterday.
City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. revealed the amount of the settlement, which was announced Oct. 7, at the request of The Sun.
Zollicoffer said that city officials -- in a change of longstanding policy -- have decided to disclose the terms of all settlement agreements rather than keep them confidential.
The settlement ended a saga that began in October 1999 on an East Baltimore street corner and became a rallying cry for those opposed to incoming Mayor Martin O'Malley's zero-tolerance crime-fighting strategies.
Police and some witnesses offered starkly different accounts of what took place.
According to the police account, two officers chased Larry J. Hubbard Jr. after he leapt from an Oldsmobile that had been reported stolen hours earlier. Officer Robert J. Quick caught Hubbard and began struggling with him on the ground.
Hubbard tried to grab Quick's gun and Officer Barry W. Hamilton opened fire, fatally hitting Hubbard in the back of the head, the Police Department said.
But some witnesses said that Hubbard never resisted arrest, was partially handcuffed, pleaded for his life after being beaten by the officers and was shot in cold blood.
Lawyer A. Dwight Pettit, who represented Hubbard's mother, Deborah C. Carr, said the settlement is proof that the officers used too much force during the confrontation with the 21-year-old.
"We had an excellent case," Pettit said. "Hubbard was in fact executed. ... There was no evidence he was reaching for a gun. He had been rendered helpless and was shot in the back of the head, and we had 15 witnesses prepared to testify to that."
He added, "Regardless of what they say, if you give up a half-million dollars, that is an admission of something."
City police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella declined to comment on the settlement last night, and Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, could not be reached.
Gregg L. Bernstein, a lawyer who represented Quick, said the settlement was not an admission that the officers had done anything wrong.
"They were confronted by a life-threatening situation," Bernstein said. "They acted entirely within standard police procedures. ... Officer Hamilton had no choice but to shoot him."
Bernstein noted that the $500,000 settlement would have to be split among the four plaintiffs -- Hubbard's mother, father and the two mothers of his young children -- and their lawyers, who included Johnnie Cochran and William H. Murphy Jr. The relatives had sought $60 million in a lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court.
"The settlement represents only a fraction of what they were attempting to recover," Bernstein said. "They were seeking millions and millions of dollars. If they believe the facts showed otherwise, why would they agree to a settlement?"
When city officials announced last month they had settled the lawsuit, they declined to divulge its terms.
During the next few weeks, lawyers and relatives signed the settlement agreement. The plaintiffs received their check Oct. 25, Pettit said.
Zollicoffer said he revealed the settlement amount because the city had shifted its policy and will allow public inspection of all similar agreements.
"We're adhering to the mayor's pledge of clear and transparent government," Zollicoffer said.
Eight months after the shooting, a city grand jury cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing -- a decision that outraged Hubbard's family. The grand jury heard eight days of testimony from about two dozen witnesses, including police experts and the officers involved.
Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said several witnesses changed their stories under oath, bolstering the officers' defense.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Justice launched several investigations into the death but none resulted in charges.
Quick is now a sergeant in the tactical unit, and Hamilton is an officer in the Southeastern District.