AURORA, Colo. – The city of Aurora is set to pay its largest-ever settlement to the family of an unarmed black man shot and killed by city police in March 2015.
Naeschylus Carter-Vinzant was shot and killed by Aurora Officer Paul Jerothe as SWAT officers served an arrest warrant for Carter-Vinzant, a parolee who had taken his ankle tracking bracelet off days before the shooting.
Police had said Carter-Vinzant got into a “fighting stance,” when he was confronted by officers. Jerothe shot once, killing Carter-Vinzant. The special prosecutor who brought the charges to the grand jury for review testified Jerothe had only been out of his vehicle for between 5 and 7 seconds before the shooting.
The city announced Monday it reached a $2.6 million settlement agreement with Carter-Vinzant’s family for his death, though an Arapahoe County grand jury decided at the end of December 2015 not to prosecute Jerothe in the shooting.
The Aurora Police Department also announced Monday it had changed department policy after the shooting, though the changes were not directly tied to the settlement agreement, the department said.
It has created a use-of-force board to determine whether or not its officers used excessive force in certain incidents, a new reporting system and a new use-of-force review policy to better handle officer-involved shootings and other use-of-force cases, a spokesperson for the department said.
“The two major changes that have been implemented are a tier system to report officer use-of-force and the creating of a force review board,” said Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz at a Monday morning news conference announcing the settlement. “The force review board is empaneled to review use-of-force to determine compliance with department directives, procedures and training.”
Lawyers for Carter-Vinzant’s family released the following statement, in part, after the settlement was announced:
The family of Naeschylus Carter appreciates the sincere condolences and kindness offered by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, members of Aurora’s City Council, Aurora Police Department Chief Nick Metz, and Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman. Chief Metz has met with the family many times since Mr. Carter’s death, always listening to and respecting the family’s concerns. He has shown a genuine determination to improve the Aurora Police Department while honoring the difficult work performed everyday by his officers.
Aurora has maintained throughout this process that it wanted to make the best of this unimaginable tragedy. The family knows that nothing will make them whole again. Rather than allow this tragedy to divide the community, Aurora has honored the family’s wishes by using Naeschylus’s death as an occasion for introspection and positive change in its police department.
Finally, the family of Naeschylus Carter expresses extreme gratitude for the support they have received throughout this tragedy. They ask that the community continue to strive for social justice and reform through peaceful means. The family of Naeschylus Carter will continue to stand with the families of other fallen victims as we continue to fight against systems that suppress rights and freedoms of communities of color.
Carter-Vinzant was a father of eight who had lived in Aurora for at least 20 years. The family says it “applauds” the changes made by the department after the incident.
The Aurora city manager and Chief Metz did not take any questions after reading prepared statements at Monday’s news conference, citing a confidentiality agreement with the family.
An Adams County court will have to approve the settlement agreement, which has been reached in principle.