ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The family of Kenneth Ellis III had offered to settle its lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque for $1 million before a judge ruled that the Iraq War veteran was unlawfully killed by police in a January 2010 standoff outside a Northeast Heights convenience store.
The family was awarded more than $10.3 million by a jury on Friday after a weeklong trial on several remaining claims and to determine the amount of damages.
The Journal incorrectly reported Saturday that the family had offered to settle its wrongful death lawsuit for $1.3 million after state District Court Judge Shannon Bacon’s February ruling that the shooting violated Ellis’ Fourth Amendment rights.
In fact, Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy said in an email Saturday that the family had offered to settle the case for $10 million after the ruling. The city countered with the $1.3 million offer, which the family did not accept.
The jury’s award on Friday included $7.6 million against the city for wrongful death and $2.7 million in punitive damages against Brett Lampiris-Tremba, the officer who fired the fatal shot.
APD Officer Byron “Trey” Economidy had pinned Ellis’ Corvette into a parking space outside the 7-Eleven at Eubank and Constitution NE as part of an auto theft investigation in January 2010.
A nine-minute encounter between Ellis and several officers ensued. Ellis, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran who was suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, held a gun to his own head throughout the encounter, which ended when Lampiris-Tremba shot him once in the neck.
Ellis’ family sued the city, Lampiris-Tremba and Economidy.
On Saturday, Shannon Kennedy, one of the family’s attorneys, told the Journal that settlement negotiations in the case dated back to 2011.
At that time, Kennedy said, the parties weren’t far apart in terms of what they believed the case was worth. At a mediation that year, the family offered to settle the case for $1,050,000, Kennedy said. The city offered $600,000, she said.
“We kept a million on the table up to the summary judgment hearing,” Kennedy said, referring to the February hearing at which Bacon ruled that the shooting had been unlawful.
After Bacon’s ruling, the family offered to settle the case for $10 million plus other concessions, she said. The city countered with $1.3 million.
The family did not offer a counter to the city’s final offer, Kennedy said.
“The city had a chance to settle for $1 million for well over a year,” she said.
Levy, who was reached later Saturday to respond to Kennedy’s version of events, issued a statement that read: “The City’s Claims Review Board authorized a settlement offer in the amount of $1.3 million in response to the Plaintiffs’ demand of $10 million. The Plaintiffs rejected the offer and refused to negotiate further.”
“There were additional considerations which are not reflected in Ms. Kennedy’s statement,” Levy also said. She declined to elaborate because she said the city generally does not comment on settlement negotiations.
In addition to the $10 million, after Bacon’s February ruling, Kennedy said the family also asked for a letter signed by Mayor Richard Berry and a majority of city councilors acknowledging the judge’s ruling and apologizing to the Ellis family for the shooting, 40 hours of specialized crisis intervention training within one year for Economidy and Lampiris-Tremba and the same training for 75 percent of APD officers within two years.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal