A Black man who was left paralyzed following a 2014 encounter with Camden County police will receive $10 million from the county to settle a federal excessive force lawsuit. According to NJ.com, attorneys for Xavier Ingram said they believe the amount is the largest New Jersey officials have had to pay to settle a police brutality case.
The county agreed to settle after a civil trial that was heard in a Camden federal court was declared a mistrial. The trial, which took place in March, lasted for more than two weeks. And though the court was set to hear the case again, the county’s insurance company opted to reach a settlement.
The encounter that left Ingram paralyzed occurred around his home on June 12, 2014. The Black man’s lawyers said he was trying to run away from the police because there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. That was for a driving violation.
Three Camden County police officers caught up with Ingram after he fell during his attempt to flee. The officers, identified as Jeremy Merck, Nicholas Marchiafava, and Antonio Genetta allegedly beat Ingram. Merck is also accused of stepping on Ingram’s neck.
During the trial, Ingram testified that he was yelling “I can’t breathe” as the officers beat him. But he said Merck told him to “shut up” before his neck was stepped on. Ingram also told the court that he later heard a crack in his neck before he blacked out. He said he was on a hospital ventilator when he regained his consciousness.
Ingram suffered a damaged spinal cord and displaced vertebrae, NJ.com reported. He is now paralyzed from the neck down as a result of the injuries. “I hope nobody has to go through what I went through,” Ingram said.
The lawsuit accused an officer of using excessive force and not administering medical care to the plaintiff. The Camden County police department was also accused of failing to ensure the accused officers were adequately trained and supervised.
But officials in the county are adamant Ingram injured himself while he was fleeing from the officers. The police also claim Ingram was armed and had heroin on him. But Ingram said he wasn’t armed and the heroin was planted on him. Authorities have since dismissed the criminal charges that were brought against him.
In a statement, Ingram’s attorney, Beth G. Baldinger, said the injury Ingram sustained “could not have been caused by a slip and fall as (Camden County) contended.”
“Mr. Ingram was not resisting, did not threaten the officers and there was no justification for any use of force,” she added.
On Monday, however, Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen said the county completely disagreed with their insurance carrier’s decision to reach a settlement. Keashen said the insurance company was “forcing the hand of Camden County” to agree to a settlement.
“We do not believe this is the right decision,” Keashen added. “…Based on the settlement the county maintains, and continues to maintain, that no wrongdoing took place and is not liable for any of the actions and circumstances of the aforementioned incident.”
Marchiafava and Genetta are still with the Camden County police force. Merck is, however, not with the department. Ingram also currently stays at the Hammonton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing. He has had to receive round-the-clock care as a result of his condition, per NJ.com.
“It’s hard,” Ingram said about his condition during the trial. “You can’t do nothing for yourself.”