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When A Routine Traffic Stop Turns Into Wrongful Death

As reported by Florida Today, the recent $6.4 million wrongful death settlement over the death of Freddie Gray has the nation engaging in a conversation about differential treatment from police at traffic stops. Perhaps this comes as no surprise: a poll conducted and released by the National Bar Association reveals that distinct differences exist between the way blacks and whites view treatment by the police.

Although the specifics depend upon the region, roughly 74-90 percent of blacks feel that black people are treated unfairly by the police, compared with 55-63 percent of whites. However, more whites believe that police are misunderstood by black people across the board. Regardless, the survey indicates that there is more work to be done.

History in Florida

These issues are no stranger to Florida: late last year, a routine traffic stop turned deadly when a victim was pulled over in Key West, supposedly due to illegally changing lanes. According to police, he fled, left his vehicle, and then collapsed, going into a coma until eventually being taken off life support. However, according to footage obtained, he was actually surrounded by police after surrendering (and then the video suddenly ends). His family believes that he was actually asphyxiated by police, even though his death was supposedly ruled an accident.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation, all that the police did was handcuff the victim. It was his pre-existing heart condition that caused oxygen to be cut off to his brain, leading to a coma.

However, his family strongly believes that the incident involved wrongful death, and they have filed suit accordingly. New video footage obtained contradicts police reports, showing the victim being beaten on the ground and bleeding from his head in spite of what police officers reported under sworn testimony. There is also some evidence that those who conducted the investigation did not try to contact the person who took a video that could have shown exactly what happened and that this very video is now missing, and that tasers were also supposedly activated during the arrest.

The Key West police department decided to discipline two of the officers involved, giving one a five-day suspension without pay for making inappropriate comments about the victim and the other a letter of reprimand for unauthorized vehicle pursuit. However, this does not address the issue of routine traffic stops turning into wrongful death–an issue that perhaps only litigation can address moving forward.

Contact an Experienced Clearwater Wrongful Death Attorney

Wrongful death cases can be difficult. Not only are the emotions of the grieving family still raw, but showing that a deceased individual suffered physical pain or mental trauma prior to passing away can require the testimony of expert witnesses and a lot of difficult testimony. Attorney Mike Walker is experienced in handling wrongful death cases. Mike Walker understands the emotional pain and suffering, along with the physical realities, that accompany losing a loved one unexpectedly, and is committed to helping you understand what compensation may be available to you and helping you understand the court process. Attorney Walker will vigorously fight for the damages you deserve. Contact the office in Clearwater today for a free consultation.

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