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Lawsuit over violent city police incident settled

A Charlottesville musician has settled his lawsuit against a former Charlottesville police officer who tackled and injured him during a 2021 incident.

The federal lawsuit was filed in April on behalf of LaQuinn Gilmore and initially alleged that six city police officers violated his First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights when he was thrown to the ground and injured during the Jan. 11, 2021 incident.

Soon afterward, Gilmore shared video of the incident and, eventually, the Charlottesville Police Department also released body camera footage.

Only one of the officers, Joseph Wood, is named in the complaint. Wood is no longer with the police department but the department has refused to identify the other officers involved.

The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum on Jan. 5 according to Gilmore’s attorney Jeff Fogel.

“Though we are unable to reveal the total sum of the settlement, we believe it to be a fair figure and [Gilmore] is satisfied with the result,” Fogel said.

The complaint was based on statements previously made by Gilmore that he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and searched before being released. The interaction began after Gilmore pulled his car over to vomit due to sickness caused by an antibiotic he was prescribed for a hand injury, per the lawsuit.

According to the complaint, as a result of Wood’s actions, Gilmore suffered a closed head injury with concussion, a lower leg contusion and acute bilateral thoracic back pain. He was never charged with a crime.

“There are two elements to every case: liability and damages,” Fogel said. “We had a good case on liability, given the fact that police departments had made factual findings about what happened, and that those were admissible in federal court. The issue really was what, what are the damages?”

Following the incident, Gilmore filed an internal affairs complaint with the police department. An internal affairs investigation found that Wood had unlawfully detained Gilmore but denied various other claims, including excessive force.

In a March press conference, then-city Police Chief RaShall Brackney said the internal affairs investigation showed that Wood “failed to articulate or justify his reason” to Gilmore after he had disengaged from a conversation with Gilmore and then demanded to see Gilmore’s driver’s license after Gilmore made a comment about police.

At that same press conference, Brackney announced that both Wood and Officer Jeffrey Jaeger, who was convicted Dec. 11 of assault in an unrelated incident involving an arrest, were no longer with the department.

The finding of liability mixed with the uncertainty around damages is what Fogel said he believes drove the decision to settle the lawsuit.

“It’s the problem I have in every single case, virtually, that I do; we don’t have any out of pocket expenses, you don’t have medical bills, you haven’t lost work, so how do you value that?” Fogel said. “Different juries can come up with different numbers all over the place and that’s one of the things that encourages settlement from both sides’ perspective, because nobody has any idea what a jury might do.”


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