In March 2019, Stacy Kenny, 33, was shot and killed by a Springfield, Oregon police officer while in her own car. On July 17, 2020, her family was awarded a record-breaking $4.55 million settlement in her death, the largest such settlement in state history. Some verdicts have surpassed this amount, but not settlements.
The lawsuit was filed against the city and the officers involved, claiming negligence and excessive use of force. The family announced it will donate some of the funds to organizations helping those with mental health issues, a problem shared with Kenny.
Kenny, formerly known as Patrick Kenny before changing gender and name in 2018, suffered from schizophrenia. She had previously been charged with stalking but was found unfit to proceed in the court case. After leaving jail on bail, she was ordered to participate in a custody-diversion program.
Force and a Stun Gun
The family lawsuit states that around 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 31, 2019, Kenny pulled her car into a bike lane. Springfield Police Officer Kraig Akin pulled his squad car behind Kenny’s vehicle in reaction to this minor traffic offense.
Due to Kenny’s mental illness, she reacted “abnormally” when Akin approached, according to the lawsuit. Akin attempted to arrest her by pulling Kenny out of the driver’s side window. At no time did he tell her she was under arrest or ask her to open the door or roll down her window.
Three other officers soon responded. They proceeded to break the driver’s side and other windows in the car. Kenny had her seatbelt on and did not have a weapon. She was grabbed by the officers, who beat her with their fists on the head and faced and used a stun gun on her back and stomach.
As Sgt. R. A. Lewis tried to get into the car, Kenny attempted to drive away and accelerated the vehicle. Lewis then shot at Kenny six times – five of the bullets struck her, including two to the head. She died at the scene.
The following month, the Lane County district attorney deemed the death “justifiable.”
A Kenny Alert
Earlier that very day, the police department had issued an alert regarding Kenny. The alert notified officers that Kenny struggled with mental health issues in case they encountered her. The family had shared that information with police back in June 2018, although the report dealt with Patrick Kenny and identified him as male.
The family told law enforcement at that time that Kenny had been off his medication for several weeks. Although his behavior could seem strange, it was not hostile, according to their lawsuit.
A Toxic Warrior Culture
The Kenny family attorney said the Springfield Police Department’s methods created a toxic warrior culture. He adds that the settlement provides a framework that can change that culture in that some of the monies will fund an independent critical analysis of the department. That analysis will become public and heard by the city council.
Were you or a family member injured in police custody or as an inmate?
If you are injured or a family member is wrongfully killed or suffers an injury during an arrest, while you are in custody, or when you are in state or federal jail or prison – you can sue. Contact our lawyers at 866.836.4684 or online to learn more.