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$4.65 Million Settlement in Police Shooting of Unarmed Man

On April 25, 2010, Jeffrey J. Edwards was shot behind the left ear by a police officer. The shot paralyzed him from the neck down and Edwards remained paralyzed until his death in 2014. He filed a lawsuit against the Town of West Seneca before his death. The suit was recently settled for $4.65 million. Edwards’ attorney, Richard Weisbeck, spoke to the Buffalo News and WIVB about his client and the case. The full story is available on the Buffalo News website and the WIVB website.

Details of the incident

On the day of the incident, Edwards was bringing food to the house of his friend Jerome Brylski. Brylski was under surveillance by the West Seneca police at the time, as he was unstable and threatening to shoot anyone who came to his door. According to the Buffalo News, Brylski called Edwards to ask for an order of fast food and a ride to a friend’s house. Edwards obliged, as both men were unaware that the police were monitoring Brylski’s home and considering him dangerous.

The Buffalo News reports that, when they were leaving the house, Brylski snuck a rifle into the car. The police, unsure of whether Brylski was in the car but intending to question Edwards, pulled the car over. When the car stopped, Brylski shot twice at the police. Mr. Weisbeck told WIVB that "by the time the West Seneca police began shooting on the vehicle, the gun that was used by the mentally disturbed man was already on the pavement in plain sight."

"Once the police started shooting bullets into the car, [Edwards] feared for his life, so he opened up the driver's side door, crawled out onto the pavement with his hands outstretched to show the police officers that he had no weapon, no gun, and posed no threat whatsoever to the police," Mr. Weisbeck continued. According to the Buffalo News, an officer who arrived later to the scene shot Edwards twice: once in the flank, and once behind the left ear. The second shot left Edwards paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life.

Lawsuit filed against Town of West Seneca

After the incident, Edwards filed a lawsuit against the town of West Seneca. "He was very angry that he was shot and paralyzed," Mr. Weisbeck told WIVB. "He felt that he was doing nothing more than aiding a friend and committed no wrongdoing." The Buffalo News reports that Edwards was seeking an amount of money large enough to buy and equip a home where a quadriplegic could live somewhat independently, as well as remain supported for the rest of his life. This sum may have exceeded the town’s $6 million insurance coverage. Edwards’ death in 2014 changed the negotiations.

The Town of West Seneca agreed to pay $4.65 million to settle the lawsuit. Although the suit alleges that the police were negligent, the Buffalo News reports that out-of-court settlements confirm no wrongdoing. Mr. Weisbeck told WIVB that the police did not understand the situation, "used excessive force, and they shot an unarmed, innocent man who committed no crime and did no wrongdoing whatsoever." Mr. Weisbeck also spoke to the Buffalo News about his client. “I know Jeff was extremely upset that he was only acting as a good friend to someone in need and believed he should not have been harmed in any way,” he said. “He posed no threat to anyone, including the police officer who shot him.”

About Richard P. Weisbeck, Jr.

Richard P. Weisbeck, Jr. is a senior partner at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria. He focuses his practice on personal injury, including workplace injuries, construction accidents, and automobile accidents. He has been named to Best Lawyers in America for Personal Injury Litigation - Plaintiffs and is among the Top 50 attorneys named to Upstate New York Super Lawyers.

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