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Cleveland agrees to pay $500,000 to settle lawsuit over 2010 fatal police shooting

August 1, 2018

Cleveland agrees to pay $500,000 to settle lawsuit over 2010 fatal police shooting

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The city of Cleveland agreed Tuesday to pay $500,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a bank robbery suspect shot by a detective in the basement of his grandmother’s house in 2010, the family’s attorney said.

The settlement between the city and the family of Danny Withers Jr. came less than two weeks before a civil trial was set to begin in federal court in downtown Cleveland.

It was reached during a pretrial conference held in the chambers of U.S. District Judge Christopher Boyko. A trial, now canceled, was set to begin Aug. 13.

Detective Daniel Zola shot Withers, who emerged from a closet in a dimly-lit basement, a single time in the chest when Withers quickly raised his right hand after another officer opened the closet, court records say.

Zola was accompanied by officers David Shapiro and Thomas Shoulders as they searched for Withers at his grandmother’s home on East 125th Street. Withers was wanted on a warrant in connection to a bank robbery where he threatened to shoot a teller, according to court filings.

Withers’ family filed suit in 2011. Boyko dismissed the lawsuit in 2015, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it the next year in a 2-1 decision, saying a jury should decide on a factual dispute regarding how much time elapsed before Zola fired.

Larry Zukerman, an attorney representing Withers’ family, said his clients did not want to endure a trial and that the lawsuit had been litigated for seven years.

“They felt that the city accepted responsibility for killing their son and they’re pleased that the matter is resolved,” Zukerman said.

A city spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

City attorney John Bacevice Jr. wrote in a trial brief that Zola saw what he thought was a gun in Withers’ hand and thought that Withers would shoot him. Investigators did not find a gun at the scene, but they found a screwdriver lying near where Withers was shot.

Brian Murray, an attorney for the family of Withers, wrote in his trial brief that Zola made too quick of a decision to shoot and should have waited a little longer so he could see what, if anything, Withers had in his hand. Murray also wrote that officers had ordered Withers to show them his hands as they searched the basement.

Zukerman also said Tuesday that the screwdriver did not have any of Withers’ DNA on it and that it was a “justification made after the fact.”

None of the officers were disciplined for the shooting.

If you would like to comment on this story, please visit Tuesday’s crime and courts comments section.

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