DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The city of Dearborn agreed to a $1.25 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who was fatally shot by police near a shopping mall, according to a document released Thursday.
Dearborn Police Officer James Wade repeatedly shot 31-year-old Janet Wilson while she was in her car on a busy street in 2016. Police were pursuing her after a dispute was reported inside and outside Fairlane Mall.
A judge approved a settlement between Dearborn and Wilson’s family on Jan. 10. But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman honored the parties’ request to keep the details confidential. The deal was released under a public records request by The Associated Press.
No criminal charges were filed against police. Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wilson “exhibited erratic and aggressive behavior” at the mall and drove her car toward the officer. Although Wilson was unarmed, state police spokesman, Lt. Mike Shaw noted that “she had a 3,000-pound weapon called a vehicle.”
Legal standards, however, are different in a lawsuit. Dearborn denied liability but said it agreed to the settlement to “amicably resolve” the dispute. The payment will be a mix of tax dollars and insurance money. Wilson was survived by her mother and six siblings.
Wilson’s family was seeking damages of $10 million in the wrongful death lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Wilson was departing the Fairlane parking lot on Jan. 27, 2016 when mall security reported a “disorderly mental female” to Dearborn police. The lawsuit alleges that officers responded to the call and surrounded Wilson’s vehicle along Hubbard Drive, approaching her “with guns drawn and yelling at her.”
Wilson remained in her vehicle momentarily before being shot multiple times, resulting in her death, according to the lawsuit. It was the second fatal shooting by a Dearborn police officer in less than two months.
Immediately after the incident, Shaw said the shooting followed a police chase that began with an incident at JC Penny in the mall. According to witnesses, Wilson “was acting suspiciously” inside the store, security was notified, and security guards followed the woman out into the parking lot. She got into her vehicle, Shaw said — a Chevy HHR — and “almost struck” one of the guard’s vehicles while driving away.
After 911 was called, Dearborn police tried to make a traffic stop on Hubbard Drive, but Wilson disregarded the lights and sirens, Shaw said. And when she got stuck in traffic, officers got out of their vehicles and tried to put an end to the pursuit.
“So, as they came and approached the vehicle, the traffic cleared up for her. One of the officers was in front of the car…and as she kind of proceeded on, or tried to hit the gas, and almost struck that officer, one of the officers on the scene fired his duty weapon, striking and killing her,” Shaw said.
In 2015, a month before Wilson was killed, another Dearborn officer fatally shot a man after a foot chase and physical struggle. Worthy said the officer had a legitimate fear that the victim, Kevin Matthews, would get his gun. A lawsuit against the city is pending.
In 2016, the U.S. Justice Department expressed confidence in Dearborn police but said it would review the department’s use-of-force policies and give advice.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.