A federal judge on Tuesday approved a settlement for an undisclosed sum in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Michael Brown over his 2014 fatal shooting by a Ferguson Police officer, a killing that set off weeks of unrest in the St. Louis suburb and heated nationwide discussion about policing in African-American communities.
U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber sealed the settlement terms, including how much will be paid to Michael Brown, Sr., and Lesley McSpadden, the parents of the 18-year-old teen who was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014.
“The settlement agreement shall remain sealed by this Court and shall be considered a closed record under Missouri Revised Statute . . . due to the adverse impact to Plaintiffs should it be disclosed,” Webber wrote in the filing approving the settlement. “Disclosure of the terms of the settlement agreement could jeopardize the safety of individuals involved in this matter, whether as witnesses, parties, or investigators. The public policy to consider records open is outweighed by the adverse impact to Plaintiffs.”
Neither Ferguson officials nor the attorney for Brown’s parents, Anthony Gray, immediately responded to requests for comment.
Lawyers for the city’s insurer also filed a motion last week requesting that the settlement terms be sealed.
Wilson, who later left the police force, was not indicted by local or federal prosecutors. But the incident spurred a Justice Department civil rights investigation and Ferguson was forced to revamp its police department and municipal court system, which the DOJ criticized for disproportionately targeting African-American residents.
Wilson said the confrontation with Brown began when he drove up on Brown, and another man and asked them not to walk in the street. Soon the confrontation escalated, and Wilson says Brown reached into the car, with the two men wrestling over a gun.
Wilson said he shot Brown several times after Brown, having started to flee, turned and charged the officer.
The suit alleged Wilson violated Brown's civil rights through "unlawful detention and the use of excessive and deadly force." It also accused the city and former Ferguson police chief of failing to hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation. The suit also alleged the police department "had a custom or policy of negligently hiring and retaining officers, failing to property train and/or supervise officers in the use of deadly force."
Webber described the settlement as “fair and reasonable compensation for this wrongful death claim and is in the best interests” of Brown’s parents. The settlement fee also includes attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses.