York County, Springetts settle lawsuit in fatal Kmart police shooting
Springettsbury Township and York County have settled a civil lawsuit brought by the family of Todd William Shultz, who was fatally shot outside the Springetts Kmart by township police in 2012.
Shultz's family will be paid $285,000, according to the two-page settlement, provided to The York Dispatch by county solicitor Glenn Smith.
Springettsbury Township will pay $275,000 of that amount, and York County will pay the remaining $10,000, he said.
"The parties have reached a settlement whereby no admission of guilt has been offered," Smith said.
Settling was more cost-effective than taking the case to trial, Smith said, despite the fact that "we feel we certainly would have been successful" at trial.
"However, from an economic standpoint, it was in the best interest of the county to resolve the matter," Smith said.
As part of the agreement, individual plaintiffs — including the officers involved — were dismissed from the lawsuit, according to civil-rights attorney Devon Jacob, who represented Shultz's family.
"Todd Shultz's death was tragic, but as a result of the lawsuit we now have a new police chief, who has partnered with the (federal) Department of Justice and essentially made the change that the public needed in order to build the necessary trust with its police department," Jacob said. "As a result, the family is satisfied with the outcome of the litigation."
Family wanted change: The original lawsuit sought $8 million. But Jacob said Shultz's family was less concerned about money than they were about trying to ensure something like this didn't happen again.
"The original demand was intended to communicate that change was what was going to be required to resolve this litigation," Jacob said.
In February 2016, Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump and his department partnered with the federal Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, to "identify blind spots and gaps" in the police department, according to Stump.
Stump has said the Shultz case played only a part in his decision to involve his department in the two-year DOJ program.
Prior to the partnership, DOJ had investigated Springettsbury Township Police after Jacob sent a letter to the FBI alleging the department had "gone rogue" and that the "general public was in grave danger."
Stump said federal investigators cleared his department of wrongdoing.
'Business decision': Springettsbury Township officials weren't pleased with the settlement.
"I know the township board of supervisors are very disappointed in the outcome of the case," said Benjamin Marchant, Springettsbury Township manager.
He said township supervisors stand by the officers and their actions.
"This was a business decision out of the township's hands," Marchant said, and one made by the township's insurance carrier.
Stump said he too was against the settlement.
"It's my understanding the insurance company agreed to settle because they decided the cost of going to trial would exceed the settlement amount," the chief said. "I stand behind the officers and their actions (during) that tragic situation."
'They had no choice': Stump said the officers' actions were appropriate.
"No one wants to use deadly force — that's your worst nightmare as an officer," he said. "But they had no choice."
Still, he said, his department has evolved since that night.
"We've made a lot of changes," Stump said. "We learn from everything we do on a daily basis, (including) this tragic event."
Late Wednesday afternoon, Stump issued a statement that read, in part, that the officers "were forced to make a very difficult decision that evening based on the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances confronting them."
The chief also said police make those decisions "for the sake of protecting innocent lives" and described Shultz's death as "an absolute tragedy."
The settlement was signed April 8 by one of Shultz's family members.
The background: Jacob filed an $8 million federal civil-rights lawsuit in December 2014 on behalf of Shultz's family.
Shultz, 40, of North York, was killed when he was shot 17 times by now former Officer Greg Hadfield and current Officer Jamie Miller shortly before 7 p.m. Dec. 29, 2012, outside the 1094 Haines Road Kmart. Shultz was wielding a butter knife and scissors at the time, despite repeated orders and pleas from police that he drop the weapons.
NOTE: Some viewers may find the video disturbing.
Officers began firing as Shultz moved toward them, then continued to fire after he had turned away from them, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges the last 11 bullets went into Shultz's back and side, and one of them fatally perforated his heart.
Confrontation: Police tried to arrest Shultz inside Kmart for shoplifting jewelry, but he resisted arrest inside, then outside the store, according to a report from District Attorney Tom Kearney, who cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
Kearney previously told The York Dispatch he's not bothered by the last 11 shots, because there are times when it's justifiable for police to shoot someone in the back.
"People flinch, they turn, cops are in different locations," he has said. "The location of bullet wounds is but one factor in (my) determination ... as to whether officers acted appropriately."
Jacob has called the shooting "shocking and unlawful."
Kearney and York County had been removed as defendants from the lawsuit in September 2015, but York County was re-added after Jacob filed an amended complaint.
Other lawsuits: Jacob also represented Steven E. Landis and Debra L. Williams, who claimed Springettsbury Township police officers — including Hadfield — used excessive force when arresting them during two separate incidents.
Kearney ruled none of the officers involved broke the law during either encounter.
Springettsbury Township settled with Landis and Williams for $250,000 each.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.