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June 3, 2004

No deal in '02 shooting

From: Denver Post, CO - Jun 3, 2004

City plans "vigorous" defense of slaying by 2 officers

By Kris Hudson
Denver Post Staff Writer

Attorneys for the city of Denver are prepared to go to trial in the case of a hearing- impaired man shot and killed by police in 2002, saying the case differs from the fatal shooting of Paul Childs, which the city will settle.

On Tuesday, the City Council gave its initial approval to a $1.325 million settlement for the family of Childs, the developmentally disabled teen shot dead by since-suspended officer James Turney in July 2003 after he failed to drop a knife.

The council is scheduled to review the settlement a final time Monday.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit over another shooting by Turney appears headed for the courtroom next year.

"These cases are markedly different," City Attorney Cole Finegan said Wednesday. "And the facts are markedly different."

Turney and fellow officer Robert Silvas fatally shot 18-year-old Gregory Lee Smith in his mother's northeast Denver home on Jan. 30, 2002, after Smith approached them with a knife and did not heed orders to drop it, officials said.

Smith's mother, Regina Keith, called police to the house after an argument with Smith. When Smith emerged from his basement room and met Turney and Silvas in a stairwell, he pulled a knife from his pant leg and started toward them, according to a letter in which Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter cleared the officers of wrongdoing.

The officers repeatedly told Smith to stop and drop the knife, Ritter found. The officers fired when Smith got within 5 feet of them, according to the letter.

In January, Smith's mother filed a civil rights lawsuit in Denver District Court against the officers, their supervisors and the city. The lawsuit, since moved to U.S. District Court in Denver, accuses the defendants of denying Smith's constitutional rights, failing to train Denver officers properly and violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. The lawsuit seeks damages of $12 million.

Finegan said his office intends to defend the case "vigorously" at trial. Lonn Heymann, the lawyer representing Smith's mother, declined to comment. Turney's attorney did not return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday.

Staff writer Sean Kelly contributed to this report.

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