Attorneys for the Albuquerque Police Department and Katherine Pierce, widowed when her husband Scott became a victim of serial killer Clifton Bloomfield in a tragic case of mistaken identity, have agreed to a $439,000 settlement.
The agreement avoids a scheduled trial but leaves the two sides light years apart on who bears blame for events of the night four years ago when Scott Pierce was shot by Bloomfield during an invasion of the newlyweds’ home.
The Pierces had been married for six days and the killers thought someone else, their intended target, lived in the home.
Bloomfield ultimately was sentenced to 195 years for five murders.
Pierce’s lawyers Brad Hall and Ben Davis say their client agreed to settle not because of money, but rather to bring “an end to her long fight for answers, as to how this could have happened to her husband.”
In the course of litigation, she learned — and her attorneys asserted — that police could have arrested Bloomfield long before he killed her husband. The police crime lab had Bloomfield’s DNA from an earlier victim, it was in a national database and there were other indicators that were ignored because detectives had settled upon a pair of young magazine salesmen as the culprits in the murder of a Korean couple, Pung and Tak Yi.
“Ms. Pierce believes she learned from litigation that if APD officers and supervisors had not been negligent, Mr. and Mrs. Yi would not have been murdered by Bloomfield on Dec. 3, 2007, and her husband would not have been murdered by Bloomfield on June 28, 2008,” her lawyers said in a statement.
APD had other contacts with Bloomfield that should have led to his arrest under the Family Violence Protection Act and for probation violations, regardless of any “false confession” by a magazine salesman, Pierce’s attorneys said in a statement announcing the settlement.
Deputy City attorney Kathryn Levy is equally adamant in her defense of APD.
The city denies the allegations of the complaint, which included negligent reliance on a false confession and failure to arrest and investigate Bloomfield. There is no admission of liability in the release.
It was Bloomfield and Jason Skaggs who killed Scott Pierce, she said, noting that Skaggs targeted the house where the Pierces lived. Skaggs thought someone else was living in the home, which the couple had recently purchased.
“The settlement was based on the fact that the case was filed under state law and a jury would be permitted to apportion fault,” Levy said in a statement. “Even a small percentage of liability against the City would have resulted in a money judgment far in excess of the settlement amount.”
Bloomfield ultimately pleaded guilty to the Yi homicides, she said, and the investigation of their deaths was complex and continued for months.
She also rejects Hall’s claim that police induced statements from a mentally infirm salesman who in turn implicated a colleague, Michael Lee. The city settled a lawsuit brought by Hall on behalf of Lee, who spent over a year in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, for $950,000 in June 2011. The other salesman’s lawsuit is pending in federal court.
Levy said allegations about coercive interrogation also are “without basis.”
APD’s methods of questioning suspects “are universally accepted by law enforcement. In addition, the allegation that there was a lack of communication between parole officers and APD is equally without merit … Taking a person into custody involves a variety of factors, many of which are outside of APD’s control.”
She called Scott Pierce’s death a tragedy but not one APD could have foreseen.
“There was no way the Albuquerque Police Department could have predicted he would be the victim of a serial killer who randomly targeted his victims,” she said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal