Fifteen years after their loved one’s death, the family of a Black teen shot and killed by New York police has reached a multi-million-dollar settlement with the city.
Officials called the boy’s death “tragic” and said deciding to settle was “in the best interest of all parties.”
His mother says the journey to find some form of justice has been long.
On Thursday, Dec. 21, the city of New York agreed to pay the estate of Khiel Coppin $3 million in damages after he was killed by police in 2007, according to PIX 11.
The 18-year-old was shot on Nov. 12, 2007, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of central Brooklyn by police officers who thought he was charging toward them with a gun.
Officers fired 20 bullets at Coppin, finding out he didn’t have a firearm later. In his hand, the young man had a hairbrush.
In 2015, Flushing attorney Andrew Plasse filed a federal civil lawsuit for $40 million against the city on behalf of Denise Elliott-Owens, Coppin’s mother.
Within the 17-page lawsuit, the mother says her eldest son was unarmed and had his hands in the air when the police shot him.
“Many citizens felt there was no rational excuse for shooting 20 times an unarmed man with his hands up in the air and then handcuffing him on the ground after he was seriously injured,” the complaint states.
The claim further states that because of the overwhelming “public outcry” over her son’s death, police retaliated against the woman’s other son, Na’im.
Seven years after Coppin’s death, Na’im was shot at 18 times on Aug. 31, 2014, by police near the same apartment where his brother was killed. One bullet struck his torso. The brother survived for a week before succumbing to his wounds on Sept. 6.
Both of Elliott-Owens’ sons’ deaths sparked public outrage, leading to demonstrations from several criminal justice advocates, including then-state Sen. Eric Adams, who suggested the police force purposely withheld the video of the fatal shooting to protect the officers, the Daily News reported.
Elliott-Owens commented on the settlement, saying, “It’s been such a long journey. It’s been years. From day one, it was a rough ride. They didn’t want to accept accountability.”
The journey has been long.
In 2017, the city actually won a summary judgment to have the case dismissed — after the case was stuck at the state level for 10 years.
In 2020, the state appeals panel reversed that decision, deciding a jury should review the evidence and determine if they believe the officers violated Coppin’s civil rights by using excessive force.
One appeals panel member was Sylvia Hinds-Radix, who, ironically, has been appointed by now-Mayor Adams to be the city’s corporation counsel.
Elliott-Owens has also changed her representation. Wale Mosaku is now her lawyer.
Reports say in the first incident, Elliott-Owens had called Interfaith Medical Center’s mobile crisis team seeking assistance for her “mentally disturbed son” around noon on the day of his death. Coppin had a history of mental illness, and according to the Daily News, he had stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication.
Six and half hours later, the medical center’s crisis team finally arrived, but the young man was not at home. Because he was not there, the team left. Coppin returned after, and the mother called the police.
The mom said, “If I knew that that would have been the outcome, maybe I would have proceeded another way.”
When the police arrived, they saw Coppin, who yelled out that he had a weapon, prompting the police to act.
The NYPD spokesperson Nick Paolucci said the officers erroneously made a “split-second” decision, which resulted in the death.
“When officers responded to a mother’s call for help, they were confronted by what they believed to be a lethal threat and had to make split-second decisions,” Paolucci stated.
“Officers testified that Mr. Coppin lunged at them with a knife, yelled that he had a gun, and reached for that weapon in the bulge of his sweatshirt, despite repeated orders to raise his hands,” he said in a statement. “While this incident ended tragically, a lower court agreed that the actions of these officers were justified under the circumstances. An appellate court, however, reinstated claims against the officers, saying a jury should weigh the evidence.”
“We have carefully reviewed this tragic case and have determined that this agreement was in the best interest of all parties,” the spokesperson reiterated.
Elliott-Owen said she believes the settlement was “just a legal tactic.”
“It still doesn’t bring back my son,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s just money. You still have a loss.”