Four dollars can buy you four items at a dollar store (not including tax), or maybe even lunch off of a value menu at a fast food restaurant. To suggest that $4 covers a family’s pain and suffering and funeral expenses for a 30-year-old Black man shot in the head by a white sheriff’s deputy in his own home isn’t just ridiculous, it’s an intended insult.
A federal court jury in St. Lucie County, Fla., awarded the family of Gregory Hill Jr. $4 last week. According to TCPalm, $1 is for Hill’s mother, Viola Bryant, to cover funeral expenses and each of Hill’s three children get $1 for mental pain and suffering and loss of parental companionship, instruction and guidance.
The jury decided that in his official capacity, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara was negligent but was only 1 percent liable. So the sheriff’s office must pay only 4 cents toward the $4.
Bryant filed the lawsuit in 2016, on behalf of her son’s estate, which was seeking at least several hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Hill was fatally shot in the garage of his home in Fort Pierce, Fla., by St. Lucie County Deputy Christopher Newman in 2014, after a mother picking up her child at a school across the street complained to police about loud music.
When Newman and his partner knocked on the garage and front doors, Hill opened the garage and he was quickly shot.
“Hill stood facing out of the garage with his left hand on the door and his right hand down,” TCPalm reports. “Newman drew his gun, and as the garage door started to go down, fired four times toward Hill, tracking upward.”
He shot Hill twice in the abdomen and once in the head through the garage door.
Newman was not charged in Hill’s death.
Police said an unloaded gun was found in Hill’s back pocket the gun was not pointed at the officers; it was in his pocket with no bullets.
The sheriff’s office was also quick to point out that tests showed Hill’s blood-alcohol content was 0.40, which is five times the driving limit. It seems the jury used that to place the blame on Hill.
Even if Hill was intoxicated, he was at home and of legal age to drink.
“I don’t get it,” the family lawyer, John M. Phillips, told The New York Times of the jury’s decision.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Hill’s fiance, Monique Davis, said. “There are a lot of questions I want to ask.”
Jurors did not stay after the verdict last Thursday to speak with lawyers and have not approached him since, Phillips said.
Sheriff Mascara issued a statement on Facebook:
“We are pleased to see this difficult and tragic incident come to a conclusion. Deputy Newman was placed in a very difficult situation, and like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced.
“We appreciate the jury’s time and understanding and wish everyone involved in this case the best as they move forward.”
Hill’s family has created a GoFundMe page.