by Max Brantley
A Little Rock law firm has announced a proposed $562,000 settlement of a lawsuit by the estate of Bobby Joe Rylee, who died of injuries in an arrest by Russellville police in 2006. Witnesses said Rylee was no longer resisting and was being restrained while punches, kicks and knee drops continued. The suit also claimed lacked of medical attention. Here's background on the case.
The settlement is about more than money. The Russellville police department has amended its force policy, has added cameras to patrol cars and will experiment with body cameras.
NEWS RELEASE, CHARLES HARRISON OF MCMATH WOODS LAW FIRM
A tentative settlement has been reached in the lawsuit involving the federal civil rights and wrongful death claims of the Estate of Bobby Joe Rylee and his family against five police officers for the City of Russellville, Arkansas.
The suit arose from fatal injuries that were inflicted upon Rylee during the course of his arrest in the early morning hours of July 15, 2006 following a traffic stop. Although the police officers contended that they only used the amount of force necessary to take Rylee into custody after he scuffled with them, a number of witnesses at a nearby Waffle House stated that after Rylee was restrained and no longer resisting he was subjected to numerous punches, kicks and knee drops.
Rylee suffered a broken neck and damaged spinal cord in the incident that led to pulmonary and cardiac failure later that morning and to his death on July 20, 2006. The case had been scheduled to go to trial in the United States District Court in Little Rock on July 26, 2010.
Under the terms of the agreement, $562,500.00 will be paid to Rylee’s estate and members of his family. In addition, the defendant police officers have issued the following apology and statement regarding the incident:
“We, Lee Goemmer, Bobby Stevens, Keith Spears, Todd Winesburg and Terry Cobb, offer our expression of profound regret to the family of Bobby Joe Rylee over their tragic loss following his arrest on July 15, 2006. We are
indeed very sorry that this incident resulted in Mr. Rylee's passing and it is our sincere hope that all of the parties can now move forward in the knowledge that important steps have been taken to prevent an unfortunate incident such
as this from ever occurring in the future. More specifically, the Russellville Police Department has placed video cameras in all of its vehicles which are regularly used for patrol, and is committed to placing cameras in all of its
vehicles. Additionally, a pilot program is in place to explore the use of body cameras on individual officers. Further, as a result of this incident, the Russellville Police Department’s use of force reporting policy has been amended.
Now, in all incidents in which an arrestee complains of injury, a supervisor is dispatched to the scene and medical assistance is summoned regardless of the perceived severity of the injury.”
The Probate Court of Pope County, Arkansas must approve the settlement as proposed before it can become final. The Rylee estate and family members were represented by Phillip McMath and Charles Harrison, both with the Little Rock law firm of McMath Woods P.A., and Richard H. Mays of Heber Springs, Arkansas. The defendant officers were represented by Keith Wren of Little Rock and Rob Beard from the Arkansas Municipal League.