White Ohio Officer Ordered To Pay Black Man’s Family $4.4M for Fatal Shooting

White Ohio Officer Ordered To Pay Black Man’s Family $4.4M for Fatal Shooting

An Ohio jury on Tuesday awarded $4.4 million to the family of a Black man who was fatally shot by a white Euclid police officer in March 2017.

The eight-member jury found Officer Matthew Rhodesactions to be “reckless” when he climbed into 23-year-old Luke Stewart‘s vehicle and then shot him while Stewart drove away from the scene, the Associated Press reported.

The verdict is in connection with a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Stewart’s mother in October 2017, claiming that the city of Euclid is responsible for practices that “led to the officer’s shooting and death of her son.” The suit also contended that police training in the city “encouraged, or at least condoned, excessive force.”

“They tortured my baby,” said Stewart’s mother, Mary Stewart, per the news outlet.

“Why? Why did he just take it upon himself just to feel that he could go around killing people like that? It’s just so unfair, it’s unreal. I can’t believe it.”

A trial court initially dismissed the case, and a grand jury declined to indict Rhodes after hearing evidence from prosecutors.

The fatal shooting occurred after Rhodes and fellow Euclid officer Louis Catalani responded to a call about a suspicious vehicle in suburban Cleveland. He discovered Stewart sleeping behind the wheel, alarming him awake.

Rhodes admitted that he opened the passenger door and reached into Stewart’s car to try to force him out. Stewart started to drive away, prompting Rhodes to jump in and wrestle the gearshift away from Stewart in order to control the moving car.

According to Cleveland.com, Rhodes punched Stewart in the head and tasered him before he shot him three times. Stewart said he shot him because he feared Stewart would cause a crash with the car and send Rhodes to his death. The officer also admitted on cross-examination that the car was in neutral when he shot Stewart. He also said that Stewart didn’t cause any harm to him before he decided to open fire.

As a result, the jury ordered Rhodes to pay Stewart’s family $3.9 million for the “loss of his support and companionship,” Cleveland.com reported. He must also pay an additional $500,000 for the “pain and suffering he went through when Rhodes killed him.”