The town of Spokane and its insurers can pay $4 million as a part of a authorized settlement with the household of a person shot to loss of life by police in 2019.
The settlement was introduced on the day the household’s wrongful loss of life lawsuit was set to go to trial in Spokane Superior Court docket.
David Novak, 35, was shot to loss of life on the evening of January 7, 2019, after neighbors reported that he was drunk, yelling racial slurs at them and firing a gun towards his dwelling.
However Novak did not have a gun. The noises that seemed like gunshots turned out to be Novak slamming a baseball bat into his personal truck.
Prosecutors cleared police officer Brandon Rankin of any wrongdoing in August 2019. The household filed a lawsuit in opposition to town days later.
Rankin stays employed by town and has since been promoted to detective.
David Novak’s mom, Debbie Novak, and her sister, Crystal Jenkins, have been set to take their lawsuit to trial this week after David’s father, Michael Novak, settled with town for $250,000 final week.
“We will not deliver David again,” Debbie Novak mentioned exterior the courtroom after the settlement was introduced. “So our purpose and our hope is that this protects lives in different methods and that when somebody is in uniform … suppose twice earlier than utilizing extreme power or taking their very own life.”
The $4 million settlement, which should be authorised by the Spokane Metropolis Council, is among the many largest funds in a wrongful loss of life lawsuit in opposition to town involving its police power. It dwarfs greater than the $1.67 million town paid to settle the wrongful loss of life lawsuit introduced by Otto Zehm’s household in 2012. Zehm suffocated to loss of life by the hands of Spokane police after an unprovoked and violent encounter with officer Karl Thompson. .
A federal jury later convicted Thompson of utilizing extreme power and mendacity to federal brokers. He was sentenced to 40 months in jail. The case prompted a United States Division of Justice overview of the Spokane Police Division’s practices and procedures.
“It has been a really emotional day,” mentioned Debbie Novak.
Jury choice within the case started Monday and opening arguments within the case have been set for Thursday morning. However early within the morning, Debbie Novak acquired a name that town was able to settle.
Rondi Thorp, Novak’s lawyer, mentioned they’d been negotiating with town all week. Of their preliminary lawsuit, the Novak household didn’t record a particular greenback quantity they have been searching for, as a substitute leaving it open for a jury to resolve whether or not they would prevail at trial.
The town didn’t admit wrongdoing within the settlement or decide to any sort of reform, Thorp mentioned, however the Novak household hopes the numerous greenback quantity will immediate the division to make adjustments.
“I feel the $4 million shares that they are going to check out issues and make some adjustments,” Thorp mentioned of the police division.
That sentiment is shared by Novak’s household.
“I really feel like they’re admitting they’re fallacious to present this deal,” Jenkins mentioned. “By giving this deal they know there is a good probability they will not win this. So for me, it is a victory for my brother and he could be proud.”
David Novak grew up within the household dwelling in 9 Mile Falls. When he was a youngster, if he wasn’t serving to his mom repair up his home, he was swimming within the lake or water snowboarding, his mom mentioned.
“He was a lake boy,” he mentioned.
He was additionally an athlete competing in gymnastics, baseball, and soccer. He attended faculty in 9 Mile Falls till his senior 12 months, which he completed at Havermale Various Faculty. She labored largely development jobs and vacationed in Maui, the place she developed a robust group of pals, his mom mentioned.
Earlier than his loss of life, he was simply an hour’s flight away from incomes his helicopter pilot’s license, his mom mentioned.
“He was all the time as much as one thing,” mentioned Debbie Novak.
After coronary heart issues pressured him out of development, David Novak started establishing his personal trucking enterprise. His physician despatched an e mail the morning after his loss of life clearing David Novak to drive commercially once more, his mom mentioned.
Her English bulldog Gracie was all the time by her facet, Debbie Novak mentioned, even as much as the time of her loss of life.
David Novak all the time made time for household, showering his nieces and nephews with massive bear hugs and spending a number of time together with his grandmother, his mom mentioned. Debbie Novak mentioned that she wished her mom was right here to see them get justice for David.
Regardless of the settlement, the Novak household plans to proceed their police accountability work. Debbie Novak is a member of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability and has protested month-to-month exterior the courthouse for years.
“Individuals must keep in mind that when individuals do this work, they don’t seem to be simply doing it for civilians, they’re doing it for law enforcement officials,” Debbie Novak mentioned of advocating for police reform. “It is a win-win state of affairs when you might have life-saving reform on either side.”
Thorp additionally represents the household of Robert Bradley, who was shot and killed by police earlier this month after a dispute together with his neighbors in an incident Thorp known as just like Novak’s loss of life.
The Bradley household plans to file a lawsuit for damages in opposition to town within the close to future, he mentioned.
The town and its insurer can pay at the least $4.8 million associated to Novak’s loss of life after settling with Novak’s father, Michael Novak, for $250,000 and paying greater than $600,000 in authorized charges.
The deal should be authorised by the Spokane Metropolis Council earlier than it may be finalized. Council President Breann Beggs mentioned he does not anticipate any issues with its approval.
The town should pay $1.5 million earlier than its insurance coverage firm steps in on a case like this, he defined. Then, underneath their contract, it is the insurance coverage firm, not town, that decides when to settle claims above $1.5 million however under $20 million, Beggs defined.
Beggs expects the council to vote on the deal early subsequent month.
Reporter Kip Hill contributed to this story.
Jesse Tinsley – The Speaker-Assessment