Everett to pay $500,000

  • By Diana Hefley and Debra Smith Herald Writers
  • Wednesday, February 16, 2011 10:44am
  • Local NewsEverett

EVERETT — The city of Everett has agreed to settle a lawsuit with the family of a man who was fatally shot by police officer Troy Meade, lawyers announced Wednesday.

Everett is expected to pay $500,000 to Niles Meservey’s daughter, Tanda Louden. Her father was killed June 10, 2009, in the pa

rking lot of the Chuckwagon Inn restaurant.

The settlement paid to Louden likely will end up being less than what Everett already has spent on lawyers. The city’s legal bills have come from defending Meade against criminal charges, preparing for the civil litigation and for legal advice on union matters associated with the shooting, according to billing records obtained by The Herald.

Through June, those costs had reached more than $450,000.

Louden filed a wrongful death lawsuit a year ago today, alleging that the shooting was “highly reckless, grossly negligent and legally unjustified.” The lawsuit also alleged that the city failed to adequately train Meade.

The case was set to go to trial April 11 in Snohomish County Superior Court. Lawyers have been interviewing witnesses in recent weeks in preparation for trial.

“We accepted the offer to provide some certainty for Tanda and her family. It was a hard decision; we very much wanted to present all of the facts to the jury, but we had to consider the best interests of Tanda and her family, given the offer by the city to settle the case,” Louden’s attorney, Paul Luvera, said in a statement released Wednesday.

Luvera originally filed a $15 million claim against Everett. The city said it wouldn’t pay. Lawyers working for the city indicated that they planned to argue that Meservey was responsible for his own death.

Under the tentative settlement, the city continues to deny any wrongdoing, according to a statement released by city officials.

The settlement must be approved by the City Council, which is scheduled to discuss the matter at its Feb. 23 meeting. Until it’s approved, city officials won’t make additional comments, spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

Meservey, 51, was drunk and belligerent when Meade encountered him outside the Chuckwagon Inn. Meservey refused to get out of his car and drove into a fence. Meade shot Meservey seven times from behind.

Prosecutors charged Meade with second-degree murder, alleging the police officer had other options besides gunfire. A second officer who witnessed the shooting testified that Meade backed up and said something like “enough is enough” before he shot Meservey. That officer told investigators he didn’t think the situation had escalated to a point where lethal force was necessary.

Meade testified that the car’s back-up lights came on and he was concerned that he was going to be run down.

A jury in April 2010 acquitted Meade of all criminal charges. In the second phase of the trial, under civil rules, the jury found that the shooting wasn’t in self-defense. That verdict meant the state didn’t have to reimburse Meade’s legal bills.

Everett taxpayers, however, had to pick up the $241,000 tab for Meade’s legal defense. City officials said that under the law they were obligated to pay because the shooting happened while Meade was working in his official capacity as an Everett police officer.

The city likely has spent at least that much, or more, on lawyers assisting on the civil case and related labor matters. Through June 2010 the city already had been billed more than $200,000 on the case, records show. On Wednesday, Reardon said that the city didn’t have time to provide an accounting of the legal costs for Meade over the past eight months.

City officials began lining up civil lawyers just six days after Meade fired into the back of Meservey’s Corvette. Through June, lawyers from three different firms billed more than 800 hours to Everett. Billing documents show taxpayers have been charged thousands of dollars for civil attorneys to call each other, send and read e-mail, attend press conferences and strategize a defense to the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Meade remains on paid administrative leave. He has been paid about $116,000 in salary while on leave, Reardon said Wednesday.

The police department has not conducted an internal investigation into the shooting to determine whether Meade violated any policies. City officials have refused to explain why the investigation has been delayed for 20 months. The decision not to pursue the internal investigation — something that routinely happens in other use-of-force cases — has been controversial within the department.

“I think once the settlement has moved forward, we’ll have some better answers,” Reardon said.

Meservey’s family hopes that some good will come from their loss.

“We hope the Everett Police Department will use this tragic case as an opportunity to learn from the events of that night. While no reasonable person believes Niles Meservey should have been sitting in his car that night in his condition, we also believe no reasonable person could justify shooting him for that transgression,” Luvera wrote.

“We hope the lawsuit focused attention on the police department’s behavior, and will help the police and city to define standards of police conduct that better serve those they are sworn to protect,” he added.

Meservey’s family also extended their gratitude to the second police officer, who witnessed the shooting and later faced a blistering examination in the courtroom when he testified.

“Tanda and her family would like to publicly thank Officer Steve Klocker for his exceptional courage in coming forward and speaking the truth about what happened that evening. His honesty and integrity demonstrate what the public should expect from our police force,” Luvera wrote.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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