DALLAS -- A tentative $900,000 settlement has been reached in the civil rights trial of a family who sued the Dallas Police Department over a fatal 2010 police shooting.
The agreement was reached late Thursday following three days of testimony in a suit that was filed by the mother of Tobias Mackey.
He was unarmed and had committed no crime when former Dallas police officer Matthew Tate shot him seven times in the breezeway of an apartment complex in South Dallas. A 12-year-old boy was also shot in the arm.
“It’s always tough to settle a case in the middle of a trial because you really want to know what the jury thinks, but I think this was probably a good resolution for both sides,” said Susan Hutchison, an attorney representing Mackey’s family. “I think it helped that [the family] got their day in court.”
Hutchison said the settlement was reached while the last witness was testifying. Prior to the trial, the city had offered Mackey’s mother, Shelia Lewis, hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle. She turned it down and instead went to the U.S. Justice Department, which opened a civil rights case.
After the shooting, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, the Dallas Police Department, and local FBI officials had cleared Tate. No charges were filed and no one was disciplined.
“The city of Dallas owes this family an apology because their son was murdered by a Dallas police officer,” said Rev. Ronald Wright, a local civil rights leader who attended the trial. “This case was obviously not investigated like it should have been. This officer should have been indicted. Here’s a man who lost his life and his only family only received $900,000, and a gentleman who got beat up got a million dollars.”
Wright said he believes what happened in the Mackey case, as well as others, shows that the police department cannot investigate its own.
Mackey was walking through an apartment complex when he was approached by officers who were there to do a criminal trespass sweep looking for possible troublemakers.
Tate testified that he saw Mackey walk around the corner at an apartment complex in South Dallas in October of 2010. He testified he shouted at Mackey several times to put his hands up. He said Tate did not comply, just stared at him and appeared to be reaching into his waistband for what he thought might be a weapon.
Tate said he feared for his life.
During the trial Tate’s former supervisor Sgt. Kenneth Chapin, who was present during the shooting, said he never saw Mackey as a threat. He said that the deadly force was not justified.
Officer Johnny Fitzgerald, who was nearby at the time of the shooting, testified that he only heard someone shout one time for Mackey to show his hands before the shots rang out.
Chapin also testified that Dallas police officers need to be told during training that just because they can shoot somebody, doesn't mean that they should. He said police department applicants need to be vetted better when it comes to this issue.
An internal affairs investigation was recently opened on the statements that Chapin gave internal affairs around the time of the shooting and, more recently, during a deposition.
The family had asked for more than $5 million in their federal civil rights violation case.
The settlement is subject to approval by the Dallas City Council.