An attorney for a 23-year-old New Haven man who was hospitalized after being shot with a Taser in March 2017 by a police officer has settled the excessive force complaint for nearly $95,000.
New Haven attorney John Radshaw III told the Connecticut Law Tribune on Monday that it would have been easy to prove his case to a jury, as photo evidence and medical records indicated Rodney Williams Jr. suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Typically, jurors are willing to accept bumps and bruises, but lacerations and more serious injuries can raise their suspicions,” Radshaw said.
Williams, Radshaw said, sustained deep lacerations to his chin, a concussion and other head injuries after he hit his jaw when he fell after being shot from behind with the Taser.
Radshaw said the fact that the case involved a motor bike played a part in the plaintiff’s decision to settle the case rather than go to a jury trial.
“Who knows what a jury would think about this young man, with all the motor bikes there are across town,” he said. “Some jurors might have looked upon it as a negative. Given the risks associated with a trial, I think this is a really good result for my client.”
Williams was apprehended by police after allegedly driving a motorcross bike erratically and performing tricks with a group of others riding motorized dirt bikes and quads. Officer Michael Haines’ pursued Williams, who acknowledged he had disobeyed traffic signals. Williams reportedly dropped the motorcycle and began running away from the officer, who gave chase and deployed the stun gun.
In arguing Williams’ case, Radshaw focused on the officer’s behavior. “We were ready to show Haines was an over-eager policeman,” the lawyer said.
An New Haven Police internal affairs report released last year noted that a fleeing suspect alone does not constitute justification for use of a stun gun, and that an immediate threat to the officer or to the public must be present to justify deployment. The report concluded that the excessive-force complaint was valid.
The internal affairs report noted that Haines acknowledged “Williams had not displayed any threatening behavior toward him once off the dirt bike and did not present a danger to the public.”
Haines, who was ordered to undergo retraining and remains on the force, was not available for comment. His attorney, New Haven’s Senior Assistant Corporation Counsel Michael Wolak III, declined to comment.
New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The suit states Campbell “has admitted that the New Haven Police Department was not training its officers to comply with NHPD general orders concerning the use of electronic control weapons, including the Taser.”
Campbell did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Wolak also represented him in the case.
In court papers, the defense acknowledged that Haines fired electronic Taser probes at Williams, but contends the plaintiff must prove his injuries were related to the incident. The defense insisted the burden of proof was on Williams to establish that he suffered emotional distress and that some of his injuries are permanent.
A $94,500 settlement was approved by New Haven’s Litigation Settlement Committee on May 30, and was expected to be paid in .
Radshaw said Williams is continuing treatment for post-concussion syndrome and PTSD. “He is young and plans to work very hard to get himself healthy and put all of this behind him,” he said.