Judging the testimony of gang members more credible than that of a veteran police officer, a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million yesterday to the family of an unarmed man killed by police in 1998 outside the Cabrini-Green housing complex, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The jury rejected Chicago officer Kenny Lunsford’s testimony that he shot Michael Russell in the back as Russell tried to flee after shooting a rival gang member. Jurors found two gang members who disputed Lunsford’s account to be the more believable than the officer. “Were they more credible than the police officer? Absolutely,” said forewoman Dorcas Wetherspoon. “We came to the conclusion that the shooting was not justified. No guns were found, and the testimony of [Lunsford] was iffy.”
The jury awarded $900,000 to Russell’s mother, two brothers and sister for loss of companionship and another $600,000 to his estate for pain and suffering.
Jurors said in reaching the $1.5 million figure they took into consideration that Russell had no wife or children and that he was a 20-year-old unemployed gang member with a criminal record.