The Metropolitan Police Department will pay $500,000 to the mother of a man who died in police custody in a case that spurred changes in the department’s Taser policy.
The Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs on Monday unanimously approved the settlement in the federal civil rights lawsuit, which was filed by the family of Anthony Jones in 2012 and alleged wrongful death and the use of excessive force by officers.
“It means that Metro has acknowledged that these officers used excessive force,” said Peter Goldstein, the attorney representing Jones’ mother, Rosie Lee Mathews.
Jones, 44, died after the encounter with police on Dec. 11, 2010.
“It brings sort of a closure, but all the money in the world can’t replace my baby,” Mathews said.
According to police records, officer Mark Hatten told investigators that he stopped Jones as he was driving near J Street and Lake Mead Boulevard because Jones’ headlights were out. Video obtained by investigators showed Jones’ headlights were on at the time of the stop.
According to Goldstein, Hatten later said during his deposition that he stopped Jones for failing to fully stop at a stop sign.
Hatten asked Jones to get out of the car after Jones started acting “erratically,” according to the police report. An altercation ensued in front of Hatten’s patrol vehicle, and the officer drew his gun. Jones ran off, and the two men got into a fight in front of a nearby home.
Goldstein said Jones did not fight Hatten but was trying to escape the officer. What police called a “fight” in the police report was Hatten shocking Jones with a Taser and other officers trying to restrain him, Goldstein said.
“I wouldn’t call that a fight in the sense of two people exchanging blows,” Goldstein.
Jones refused to comply with commands, according to the report, so Hatten stunned him with a Taser. The initial shock did not affect Jones, according to the report. Ultimately, Hatten fired his Taser 10 times for just over a combined 90 seconds. The final burst was the longest at 19 seconds, the report said.
“I can’t move, I can’t move,” Jones told Hatten when commanded to put his hands behind his back, the report said.
Officer Timothy English arrived and used his Taser twice for a combined 10 seconds. Investigators determined neither officer violated department policy.
Two more officers arrived to take Jones into custody, the report said. After Jones was handcuffed, officers noticed he stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead at Valley Hospital Medical Center.
The Clark County coroner’s office said Jones died from cocaine and ethanol intoxication but that an enlarged heart and police restraining procedures contributed to his death, which was ruled a homicide.
Clark County prosecutors did not file criminal charges in Jones’ death.
Metro policy now restricts stun guns from being used for more than three 5-second cycles. The new policy also bars multiple officers from using their stun guns on a person at the same time.
The department declined to comment on the settlement.
Officer in the news
Officer Mark Hatten gained attention again last year when he shot a naked man outside a southeast valley church. The man, Jason Funke, was running toward, and was within 8 yards of, a gun he dropped earlier in the encounter, police said. As part of a March agreement that stipulated he would receive probation, Funke pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a charge of possession of a dangerous weapon on school grounds, court records show. He was sentenced Monday, but details were not available Tuesday.