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Lawsuit Dismissed in Officer’s Death

November 5, 2003

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the wrongful death lawsuit of the mother of a black off-duty police officer who was shot by two white patrolmen outside a diner.

The decision releases the city, police department and several police officials from the case involving Cornel Young Jr.’s shooting death. Young, the son of a high-ranking city police official, was shot after he drew his gun to help break up a fight.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi based her decision in part on the fact the jury last week found the supervisory police officer innocent of violating Young’s civil rights.

Lisi also rejected the lawsuit’s contention that the police department’s deficient hiring and training contributed to Young’s death.

Leisa Young’s attorney, Robert Mann, said his client will appeal. She left the courthouse without comment.

Young was off-duty and in plain clothes when he was shot by rookie Officer Michael Solitro and supervisor Carlos Saraiva on Jan. 28, 2000. Young had just left a diner with his gun drawn to break up a fight. The two white policemen mistook him for a suspect and shot him.

A year and a half later, Young’s mother sued the city, police department, two former chiefs and a pair of ranking officers for $20 million. Her main charge was that haphazard training by the department caused her son’s death.

In the first phase of the trial, the all-white jury decided that Solitro, an eight-day rookie, violated Young’s civil rights, but Saraiva did not. The two officers had been defendants in the lawsuit, but before the trial, Leisa Young decided to remove them.

Young’s father, Maj. Cornel Young Sr., the highest ranking black officer in the department, said the judge handled the case unfairly.

``She had a personal vendetta from the beginning, and it showed at the end of it,″ he said. He is divorced from Leisa Young and was not a party to the lawsuit.

Clifford Montiero, president of the Providence chapter of the NAACP, decried the ruling.

``I think Judge Lisi made up her mind and decided the city wasn’t going to lose,″ Montiero said.

Defense attorneys sought to heal any misgivings about the ruling.

``There are no winners. It was a tragedy for everyone,″ said Joseph Penza, an attorney for the city. ``Leisa Young lost her son. Providence police lost three officers. I don’t want to see this ever again.″

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