A Florida jury on Thursday awarded just $0.04 to the family of Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr., a 30-year-old African American man who was shot and killed by police officers in his home in 2014. His family’s attorney, John Phillips, lashed out at the jury, claiming that their decision is proof that “Black lives don’t matter.”
Deputy Christopher Newman was one of two deputies who responded to a noise complaint at Hill’s home. The deputies knocked on Hill’s garage door, and when he opened it, they stated that he brandished a gun and refused to lower it when directed to do so — a claim that Hill’s family disputes, saying that his weapon was in his back pocket. (RELATED: Black Lives Matter Activist: Blame Police For Starbucks Incident Too)
According to court documents, Hill closed the garage door when he realized who was there — and Newman fired through it. Hill was struck once in the head and twice in the chest.
In 2016, after a jury handed down no indictment, Hill’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Deputy Newman and his boss, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara. The jury cleared Newman on May 24, after learning that Hill had been on probation for a drug charge and was intoxicated at the time of his death, ruling that Hill was “99 percent negligent.”
The jury initially awarded Hill’s family $4 — $1 for each of his three children and $1 for funeral expenses — but because they found him to be 99 percent negligent, that amount was automatically reduced to $0.04.
The jury laid the other 1 percent of the blame at the feet of Sheriff Mascara, who said that he was just glad to see the trial concluded. He defended his deputy, saying, “Deputy Newman was placed in a very difficult situation, and like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public given the circumstances he faced.”
Hill’s family’s attorney, John Phillips, plans to file a motion requesting a new trial. Phillips said, “I’d have rather seen a zero than have to tell the children that their pain and suffering for losing their father is only a dollar.”