CHESTERFIELD, Va. (AP) — A man who was set on fire by an officer’s stun gun after a police chase has settled his excessive-force lawsuit against police in Virginia for $6.5 million.
Chesterfield County police officers had pulled the man from his wrecked car in November 2015 when the sound of sirens startled him. Officers said Miles Zachery-Cole November was resisting arrest when one shot him with a Taser, igniting his gasoline-soaked clothes.
According to the complaint, Officer Ryan Swope rushed in and yelled “Taser, Taser, Taser!” to warn other officers to move away before he fired.
November suffered severe burns on most of his body and had 34 surgeries, racking up more than $6.5 million in medical bills.
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November’s lawyers sued the county and police seeking $95 million. They accused the department of unconstitutionally misusing stun guns for years, citing a review of 135 police Taser shooting reports from 2012 to 2015. The county denied the allegations and any wrongdoing during November’s arrest. A police review concluded Swope and other officers complied with the department’s use-of-force policy.
A month after his lawsuit was filed in February 2017, November was convicted of felony assault for striking one officer in the face at the crash scene. The judge expressed sympathy for his injuries, but said he couldn’t ignore his “unbelievable” criminal record, which included three prior assaults on police officers, two DUIs, grand theft, brandishing a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, trespassing and numerous traffic violations.
November’s lawsuit contended that the Taser-wielding officer, Swope, had a record of his own. It said the military veteran acknowledged in workers’ compensation claims that he had post-traumatic stress disorder, which could produce “defiant, impulsive, rash and hair-triggered behavior.” The complaint said Swope was on disciplinary probation for misconduct and had returned to active duty just five weeks before the Taser shooting. The complaint also said Swope killed a suspect in 2013, a shooting ruled justifiable.
Swope was fired about seven months after November was shocked. According to his chief, Swope was dismissed for being associated with an “outlaw motorcycle gang.”
Chesterfield County authorities confirmed the settlement on Thursday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported . All parties agreed to end the federal case in March.
The county paid the settlement from its risk management fund reserves and commercial insurance. November’s lead attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com