Victim’s lawyer: “Something good came of something bad”
More and more, headlines across the country have been filled with news of police officers shooting innocent civilians, events that are often followed by lengthy investigations and public protests.
But one recent case in Philadelphia showed how, through the use of the civil litigation, a tragic incident was resolved in a way that benefited all involved, including the police, the victim and the citizens of the City of Brotherly Love. Or as Tom Kline, the plaintiff’s attorney involved in the case put it: “Something good came of something bad.”
The incident in question occurred on the night of April 22, 2014, when Philippe Holland, a college student working two jobs, including one at the Slices & More pizza shop, was finishing a delivery in West Philadelphia. He saw two men approach who he believed were going to rob him. One was carrying a flashlight, the other a gun. Holland got in his car and attempted to drive away.
And that was when the gunshots rang out. Fourteen of them fired by the two men. Holland was struck in the head and leg. The blood-spattered vehicle came to a stop on the sidewalk.
It turned out that the shooters were plainclothes police officers.
Holland endured several surgeries, but fragments of the bullet that struck his head could not be entirely removed from his brain, causing him to permanently suffer seizures.
Tom Kline, founding partner in the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter, PC, filed lawsuits in state and federal courts targeting the police officers and the city for assault and civil rights claims.
While the shooting itself had garnered mostly local media coverage from a handful of outlets, announcement of a settlement on Jan. 6, 2017 was front-page news in Philadelphia and was carried by dozens of media outlets, including TV stations and newspapers as far away as California, Arizona, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, Michigan, Kansas and Wyoming. The news release read:
PHILADELPHIA –The City of Philadelphia will pay $4.4 million and implement new police training protocols as part of a negotiated settlement with attorneys for a college student who was shot and grievously wounded when plainclothes officers shot him multiple times following a take-out food delivery in West Philadelphia, it was announced today.
The payment was the largest-ever civil rights settlement and the largest involving a police shooting in the city as well as the sixth highest nationally and the most ever in a non-fatal police shooting. But importantly, it included measures to help ensure that such a terrible incident would not occur again in Philadelphia.
The agreement called for the police department to establish updated rules on plainclothes officer attire, proper placement and display of patrol badges, and permitted and prohibited activities and interactions with the public, including how and when to identify themselves as police officers. Also, the city will produce a training video that all new plainclothes officers will be required to watch before new assignments and as part of roll call. The new training protocol must be implemented by July 1.
Kline told the news media: "This settlement will not only compensate an innocent citizen who suffered devastating injuries but also served as a catalyst for significant reforms in the way our communities are policed by plainclothes officers.”
He added, “The new protocol for training plainclothes police officers, which was an integral part of this settlement, will result in a safer Philadelphia not only for its citizens but also for police officers.”
See the State Complaint
See the Federal Complaint