OFFICER INJURED AT DOMESTIC RECEIVES $880,000 FOR INJURED LEG

Family tension boils over into violence until neighbors call the cops.

Family tension boils over into violence until neighbors call the cops.

Domestics are the most volatile situations our officers must routinely walk into.  In fact, the National Institute of Justice statistically confirmed they are the most lethal of all calls.  We routinely represent officers injured at domestics in a variety of contexts, and this is one example.  It begins with one family’s Thanksgiving night erupting from a meaningless dice game to a brawl with a few choice words.  Of course, that was all later denied, and it took a protracted legal battle to wrestle out the truth, which was nothing like the concocted defense of police brutality.

Following dinner, the family sat down to play Left, Right, Center, which was all fun and games until one of the brother’s, Johnny, counted wrong.  Johnny’s brother’s girlfriend kindly reminded him he failed math class, so he called her a word I can’t print here.  Johnny’s brother volleyed back F-bombs, and their father, Matt, ordered Johnny out of the room.

Moments later, extended family members hear Johnny arguing with his father, Matt.  Matt’s brother, Mike, goes to intervene.  As the family hears yelling and screaming, tension builds.  Another relative goes to intervene only to return with his shirt torn reporting a struggle.  As the fight grows louder, family members with young children become more and more concerned and one cousin calls the police.  She then quickly gets her kids out of the house, into her car, and drives home.

Before the police arrive, the fight moves outside drawing the attention of the neighborhood.  A couple from a few houses down comes out to watch the fight and adds one more call to the police.  Another woman out walking off Thanksgiving comes down to see what all the commotion is, and yet another woman makes a third emergency call.

When Officer Grey arrives, there is no fight ongoing.  This would become the focus for the defense in its claims that our entire case was simply a matter of police overreaction.  The family is known to Officer Grey, who sees Matt in his driveway alongside Matt’s sister.  Matt advises Off. Grey that he had a dispute with Johnny, but it was over and the police could leave.  Yet, Off. Grey knew Johnny was a minor, so he inquired where he was.  When Matt tells Off. Grey Johnny is inside, Off. Grey instructs Matt to stay where he is so he could go speak with Johnny privately.  Rather than obey that lawful instruction, Matt follows Off. Grey towards the house.  During this time, family members are gathering on the steps of the home and outside.  Off. Grey instructs Matt again to stay put.  Instead, Matt continues following Off. Grey and moving closer and closer until he is chest to chest with Off. Grey.  Off. Grey pushes Matt to back him away.  Just then, Mike walks up behind Off. Grey, reaches out, and grabs Off. Grey just above his gun.  Instinctively, Off. Grey grabs Matt and brings him to the ground with an arm bar.  Off. Grey, though, instantly feels his right ankle snap.  He would go on to need multiple surgeries and ultimately lost his career.

In the mayhem that ensued, Off. Grey found himself surrounded by a vile crowd of angry family members.  Johnny appeared and approached him swearing, so despite his obvious injury, Off. Grey brought himself back to his feet only to feel an overwhelming wave of searing pain which sent him back to the ground.  As emergency personnel continued to pour in, he escaped to the street as officers from multiple surrounding towns apprehended those involved.

The defense of this case centered around a peaceful family holiday interrupted by a simple argument and a completely unnecessary police response.  The family circled the wagons and despite the cousin’s 911 call, the story went that it was simply an argument, a concerned father in Matt who did not want police unnecessarily harassing his son, and a peacemaker in Mike who was trying to stop an already excessive police response.  Further, the defense denied that Mike ever even touched Off. Grey and claimed Off. Grey unnecessarily initiated all the contact.

Despite the insurers’ denials, we pursued every possible witness and deposed virtually every family member present.  As the evidence developed, their defense was slowly chipped away.  Critical to that effort was tracking down the couple from down the street and neighbor drawn to the noise.  Their independent confirmations of the violent event threw considerable doubt on the family’s story.  Through these witnesses and the audio saved in the 911 calls, we were able to convince the insurers of the serious risk they took backing this family.  We successfully mediated a resolution of this case for $880,000.00 vindicating the actions taken by Off. Grey in defense of himself and his community.

In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that public safety officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured.

- Zachary M. Ballin, Esq.

– Zachary M. Ballin, Esq.