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Bloomington looks to settle 2017 lawsuit against police officers for $55k

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WEEK) — The city of Bloomington is looking to settle a 2017 police misconduct lawsuit out of court for $55,000.

Donnelly Jackson, a black man; and Ashley Burrell, a white woman; filed the lawsuit against the city and Bloomington police officers Bradley Massey, Aaron Veerman, Tyrel Klien and Justin Shively in federal court in 2017.

Jackson and Burrell claim they were leaving Jackson’s mother’s house in the 300 block of Riley Drive on Jan. 7, 2016 when Massey pulled them over, claiming they ran a stop sign at Mercherle Drive and Robinhood Lane.

A K9 was called to the scene, and Veerman allegedly told Jackson they were in a “drug area.” Jackson said he and Burrell didn’t have any drugs and claimed the pair were being harassed because a white woman was driving around a black man, according to the lawsuit.

When Jackson told Veerman to “hold on” after the officer told him to get out of the vehicle so the K9 could walk around the vehicle, Veerman and Klein allegedly pulled Jackson from the vehicle and slammed him to the ground. Klein then tasered Jackson, and Massey sprayed him with pepper spray before he was handcuffed, the lawsuit alleges.

Jackson said he had his hands in the air and told the police he wasn’t doing anything.

Shively came to the scene with the K9, which he said positively detected drugs. Police searched the vehicle, but didn’t find anything.

Jackson was taken to a hospital and arrested for resisting a peace officer. Burrell was cited for disregarding a stop sign. Both charges were later dismissed.

The pair sued in 2017 for nine counts in all, including unreasonable seizure, false arrest, excessive force, unreasonable search of a vehicle, a Monell claim of a false search by a K9, and malicious prosecution.

The city of Bloomington will vote Monday on settling the lawsuit, rather than continuing to fight it in the federal court system.

“The City denies it acted unlawfully in the incident. However, as the anticipated costs of defending the case are expected to be significantly higher than the amount of the settlement, the decision to settle the litigation was an economic decision made by the City and its insurer. Although the City is confident it and the police officers would have prevailed if the case were tried on its merits, litigating the case is simply cost prohibitive,” the city said.

The $55,000 settlement will come from the city’s Causality Insurance Fund, which currently has a $3.4 million reserve. The city is responsible for the first $125,000 of costs under its current insurance policy.

Tim Shelley

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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