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University Of Cincinnati Reaches Settlement With Family Of Samuel DuBose


This week, the University of Cincinnati agreed to pay the family of man who was killed by one of its police officers nearly $5 million. And there's more. Under the settlement agreement, the university will also establish a memorial for the victim, Samuel DuBose, and it will provide a free undergraduate education for each of his 12 children. The family's lawyer, Al Gerhardstein, describes this type of agreement as a more comprehensive settlement. And we've called him to talk more about it. Welcome to the program.

AL GERHARDSTEIN: Glad to be here.

SIEGEL: Let me first described this case. Samuel DuBose - black man who was stopped by a university police officer last July - his car didn't have a front license plate. He was unarmed. But he did start the car, and that's when the officer shot him in the head and killed him. It was all caught on body-cam video.

GERHARDSTEIN: He started the car. The officer reached in, and the officer shot him in the head before the car had moved. And even the university's internal investigation from the Kroll company concluded that the shooting was unnecessary. And of course, the officer is under indictment for murder.

SIEGEL: Tell me about the response. Obviously someone dies. Their earnings are lost to their family for life, so there's a cash settlement. But the memorial - what experience have you had in negotiating for a memorial for somebody killed in this way?

GERHARDSTEIN: Well, I've been doing civil rights cases for 39 years, and I learned very early that these families who lose a loved one want more than money. Sure, they want fair compensation, but they want dignity for their loved one. So we have done apologies. We've done new-officer training and policies. We've done monuments and plaques. We've done shared experiences, where the victim can confront the perpetrator. And we do these things in order to meet this broader goal of restoring dignity to the family after such a horrible event.

SIEGEL: And then there's the remarkable provision here, which is that the University of Cincinnati, in settling, agrees to provide a college education to all 12 children of Mr. DuBose.

GERHARDSTEIN: That's correct. And of course, this was a defendant that was in a unique position to actually help the next generation of DuBose children. Unfortunately, the University of Cincinnati has been in that position before. They had an officer who killed a young man, and as part of the settlement in that earlier case, the University agreed to give an education to the man's siblings. So where it's appropriate, where the defendant is in a unique position to do something special, we reach out and try to do that. And I think it responds to something in people that money just doesn't reach.

SIEGEL: I gather there's also a provision here to engage the DuBose family in discussions of reforming police practice.

GERHARDSTEIN: That's correct. Many times, the victim - the DuBose family's no different - will say, I just don't want this to happen again. And how do you respond to that? I mean, having a third party - having an insurance company pay some money has nothing to do with making sure that this abuse won't go on. And yet, when the family is reassured that they can be involved in policy change, that the defendant's taking a serious look at training and all the other issues, that restores their hope that indeed, maybe it won't happen again because they're part of the remedy.

SIEGEL: This settlement comes after settlements between the families of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Eric Garner in New York and those cities. Do you think those agreements could have been more comprehensive?

GERHARDSTEIN: I don't know the details of those agreements. All I can say is that this family really did want more than money, and we wanted to provide that for them. And to - I'll say this for the University of Cincinnati. They were open to it. That's a defendant that said, what can we do for the community? What can we do for the family? How're we going to rebuild trust? And we were are all on the same page as we explored these tools.

SIEGEL: Al Gerhardstein is a civil rights lawyer. He represented the family of Samuel DuBose, who was killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer last summer. Mr. Gerhardstein, thanks for talking with us today.

GERHARDSTEIN: Thank you. Take care.

SIEGEL: And in a statement, the president of the University of Cincinnati, Santa Ono, called the settlement - and we quote - "part of the healing process not only for the family but also for our university and Cincinnati communities." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.