The City of Baltimore plans to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a mother whose 9-year-old daughter was fatally struck by a car in June 2016, a collision the mother alleges was caused by a police officer irresponsibly chasing the driver of a stolen car.
April Carter filed the claim against Officer Aisha White-Bey and the city last July, a little over a year after her daughter, Amirah Kinlaw, died while leaving Steuart Hill Academic Academy in Union Square.
It happened after a 14-year-old allegedly stole a Jeep Liberty and crashed into several cars. An item for the settlement in this week’s Board of Estimates agenda says “one or both of the cars” in the crash hit Kinlaw, killing the third grader. A crossing guard and a man were also injured. The teenager was later arrested and charged as a juvenile with auto theft and manslaughter.
The city is on the hook for Kinlaw’s death, her mother has argued, because it owns the patrol car White-Bey was driving, and because the officer chased the stolen Jeep after flipping on her lights and sirens and was “operating her patrol car at unreasonably high speed, and in a manner contrary to Departmental training and Policy,” according to the board agenda.
Police at the time denied that the officer pursued the stolen Jeep, instead saying she drove up to the intersection after the crash. The city has continued to deny the allegation White-Bey committed any wrongdoing.
Still, the Law Department is agreeing to settle the claim “based on a review of the facts and legal issues specific to this case,” the agenda said. State law sets $30,000 as the maximum amount the city could be liable for as owner of the patrol car, it said.
Carter’s lawyer, Matthew Bennett, said Tuesday his client had never alleged White-Bey engaged in a “wild, high-speed chase throughout the city,” but rather that the officer had acted wrongly by pursuing the stolen car near a school and at a time when students would be dismissed.
“The speed that she went and how far the chase went were open questions,” he said, but “the crux of the complaint” was that White-Bey had violated police department guidelines.
Carter initially sought damages for gross negligence by White-Bey, but after a judge ruled that the officer’s conduct didn’t qualify as such, Bennett said he reached out to the city’s lawyers about instead settling on the maximum applicable penalty for simple negligence, $30,000.
“The city was very decent to deal with, and they agreed,” he said.
The Board of Estimates, comprised of Mayor Catherine Pugh, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Comptroller Joan Pratt, Director of Public Works Rudy Chow and City Solicitor Andre Davis, will vote on the settlement and many other spending decisions tomorrow morning.
If approved, it will add to a growing list of settlements this year tied to Baltimore Police Department conduct. Among those: a $90,000 payout for a man who police assaulted–breaking his nose–in 2015 and, very belatedly, charged with assaulting an officer weeks later, only to drop the charge after jailing him for three nights; $50,000 for a man whose knee was injured by a “hip throw” from an officer outside an Allendale corner store in 2015, requiring him to have surgery; and a $9 million settlement paid to a man wrongfully convicted of murdering a woman in 1987 and later exonerated in 2008.
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