News Article Details

Family of mentally ill man killed by Norfolk police settles lawsuit against officer for $90,000

Virginian-Pilot - 10/2/2017

Oct. 02--NORFOLK -- Relatives of a 72-year-old mentally ill man who was shot dead by a police officer have settled their lawsuit against him for $90,000.

Before reaching the agreement, Lawrence Faine's family members were seeking $2.5 million and planned to take the case to a jury in a trial scheduled to start Tuesday.

"They were not looking to profit from his death," lawyer Bob Haddad said in an email. "They wanted some acknowledgment from the city that he should not have been killed."

In their suit, the family members accused Officer Carl Leo Seger of recklessly shooting Faine on June 4, 2014, inside his Calvary Towers apartment on East Virginia Beach Boulevard near Tidewater Drive.

In September 2014, Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Underwood decided not to prosecute Seger, a 32-year veteran, determining that he had to shoot Faine to protect himself and others.

But according to Faine's family, Seger could have avoided the situation that forced him to shoot.

Seger knew he was about to confront a man suffering from severe mental illness, the lawsuit says. But "he forced his way into the apartment of a mentally ill man relying on only one tool to solve a problem: his gun," Haddad wrote.

Seger said he didn't know about the severity of Faine's mental illness, according to court documents. But he knew a magistrate had ordered him to arrest Faine and take him to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where he could get help.

Seger said he tried to talk with Faine, but the man pulled a knife and threatened him with it, forcing him to fire.

"I acted in self-defense," Seger said in his response to the lawsuit.

One of the main points Haddad explored while questioning Seger, his partner and the apartment manager under oath, was that no one had crafted a plan for what to do if Faine attacked someone or wouldn't come out willingly.

The two officers, especially Seger, should have done so, Haddad said.

Faine's family wasn't satisfied with going after Seger with a civil suit. On Sept. 2, 2016, Haddad wrote to Mayor Kenny Alexander and the other City Council members, pushing them to launch a new investigation into the shooting with help from state police.

Haddad said a video from the hallway outside Faine's apartment, which he provided to The Virginian-Pilot, is inconsistent with what Seger's partner, Officer Ann Wright, told detectives hours after the shooting. The video reveals "serious discrepancies" between what happened and the "facts" Norfolk's top prosecutor relied on to determine the shooting was justified, he said.

Faine was coming at Seger with a knife, and the officer had to protect himself and the two people behind him, the apartment manager and his partner, Underwood wrote in his announcement that he wasn't prosecuting.

But Seger said he never knew his partner was behind him, according to a transcript of his deposition. Contrary to Underwood's report, the video shows that when he entered Faine's apartment, Wright was 50 feet down the hall talking with workers from Adult Protective Services and the Community Services Board near some elevators.

Wright told detectives she saw the apartment manager, Sparkle Harris, waving for her to come quickly, so she ran down the hall and into the room. But the manager never waves for help in the video, and Harris said she never called for or tried to hail Wright in her deposition.

As Seger goes in, Wright starts walking, not running, to Faine's doorway and gets there about 10 seconds later, roughly a second before shots are fired. Moreover, Wright never enters Faine's apartment, getting only as far as the threshold before she retreats.

"This is very troubling for the family, and it is very upsetting to them to read about the steps the City has taken for future police shootings when they know of all the inconsistencies in the investigation," Haddad said in the letter to Norfolk leaders. After taking office in the summer, Alexander pledged that all future police shootings would be turned over to state police for investigation.

"Why can't we have the state police look at this again?" Haddad asked in a November phone interview.

Deputy City Attorney Mike Beverly said in response that none of the issues Haddad raised warranted reopening the investigation. Officials knew about all of them two years ago. They had access to the video when they investigated and reviewed what happened.


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