A federal jury unanimously ruled that two Pennsylvania state police troopers used excessive force and intentionally shot 12-year-old Michael Ellerbe in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in December 2002. On March 11th the jury awarded Ellerbe's family more than $28 million dollars in punitive and compensatory damages.
Over five years ago, 12 year old Michael Ellerbe, an unarmed black boy, was shot in the back by State Troopers Samuel Nassan and Juan Curry as he allegedly ran from a stolen vehicle. While his family and community decried his death as excessive force no serious investigation was launched into Ellerbe's case.
Shortly after his son's death, Michael Hickenbottom, sued both State Troopers saying that they violated his son's constitutional rights. Over 5 years later, a jury has ruled on this suit and unanimously decided that both Trooper Nassan and Corporal Curry had intentionally shot Michael Ellerbe. The verdict refuted trooper Nassan's claim that his gunfire to the 12 year old's back was precipitated by the sound of his partner's gunshot.
While Michael Hickenbottom said he felt somewhat vindicated by the verdict but wonders why a major question has gone unanswered.
"Why did you shoot, I just want to know why did you shoot him in the back," said Hickenbottom at a press conference following the verdict.
According to community activists this historic case shows that those who fight tirelessly against police brutality can win. "I'm hoping that this will send a clear message to police everywhere, that you can not just kill anyone like this and not be punished," says Celeste Taylor a long time anti-police brutality activist.Latest coverage: Listen to a radio report
from Pittsburgh on the case, featured nationally on Free Speech Radio News.
More on this case will follow!
Previous coverage of Michael Ellerbe's case:
[ Uniontown March Against Police Violence
| U.S. Attorney Drops Ellerbe's Civil Rights Case
| Downtown Pittsburgh March Against Police Violence