A Florida jury has awarded a family $2.2 million in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and two of its deputies Friday.
Video obtained from a camera in a deputy’s patrol car shows 21-year-old Joshua Salvato struggling with deputies during a traffic stop in 2012.
The video that was first obtained almost two years ago by Eyewitness News, Marion County Deputy Lauren Miley shooting Salvato before another deputy shocked him 12 times with a stun gun.
Salvata, who was unarmed, died from the gunshot wound.
Miley responded first to the scene after neighbors called 911 reporting that a man was causing a roadside disturbance. When Deputy Norman Brown arrived for backup, Salvato resisted arrest, which was caught on Brown’s dash cam video.
In the video, Salvato appeared to surrender to deputies before he suddenly began fighting and punching them.
The video shows Miley draw her weapon and fire once at Salvato.
Brown can then be seen using a stun gun on Salvato, not realizing he had already been shot.
Both deputies kept their jobs.
Salvato’s family filed the wrongful death suit against the Sheriff’s Office alleging extreme and brutal force. The family said that the video was proof the deputies used excessive force that caused their son’s death.
After the death, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated and a grand jury declined to indict Miley or Brown. The Sheriff’s Office re-assigned them to work at a jail.
During a civil trial, which lasted nine days, the defense argued that the deputies used reasonable force during the quickly escalating situation. The plaintiff argued that the force was unjustified and excessive.
The family was asking for $39 million, but after deliberating for over six hours, the jury instead awarded $1.375 million to Salvato’s father and $880,000 to his mother, Ana Rodriguez, for the emotional and mental pain and suffering their son’s death caused.
A total of $8,014 was awarded to cover funeral expenses. The jury also awarded the estate $18,250 for the pain and suffering Joshua Salvato endured in the minutes before his death.
The jury found Miley acted excessively and unreasonably when she shot and killed Salvato, who was unarmed.
The jury also found that Brown used excessive force when he shot Salvato with a Taser 12 times after he had already been shot.
As for the Sheriff’s Office, the jury found that the agency approved the force used against Salvato by Miley because they failed to investigate the circumstances causing the death and failing to take any corrective action if such action was appropriate.
When the jury was asked whether Brown used excessive and unreasonable force against Salvato that somehow contributed to his death, they said no.
The jury did, however, determine that Brown’s use of excessive and unreasonable force caused Salvato to experience pain and suffering before his death.
Salvato’s father, Vincent Salvato, fought back tears when Channel 9 talked to him after the verdict. Outside the federal courthouse, Vincent Salvato said that he was elated about the verdict and insisted it is not about the money. He said the decision gave him closure.
It was unclear Friday how much each of the parties; the Sheriff’s Office, Miley and Brown, would be required to pay.
Do you think this was a fair verdict? Feel free to comment on this blog post. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).