A heroin addict who allegedly dragged a policeman down a busy street with his car was awarded $11 million by a Bronx jury on Tuesday.
Forty-year-old Raoul Lopez was granted the large sum for suffering from partial paralysis after he was shot by an officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD) in February of 2006.
Court documents said Sgt. Philippe Blanchard and Officer Zinos Konstantinides of the NYPD pulled Lopez over after he ran a stop sign at East 169th Street and Grand Concourse.
The officers told him to switch off the vehicle’s engine, but Lopez did not comply. When Officer Konstantinides reached inside the vehicle to turn off the car, the suspect hit the gas, dragging the policeman along the street.
Blanchard feared “that his partner would be maimed or killed if he did not take immediate, forceful action,” so he fired one shot at Lopez, striking him in the back of the neck.
However, Lopez claimed the officers ordered him at gunpoint to hand over a bag of drugs he reportedly had inside the car and said when he reached for the bag, he dropped it. He said Blanchard shot him when he moved to pick it up.
At the time, he was reportedly a known heroin addict with 20 arrests on his record.
Lopez’s lawyer, Brett Klein, said his client was an “unarmed motorist” who was “needlessly shot in the back of his neck during what the police described as a routine traffic stop.”
He was at first a quadriplegic, and through hard work, he has made great progress. But the loss of the function of his right arm and other permanent effects of this shooting will be with him for the rest of his life. We are grateful that a Bronx jury has held the City accountable for this wrongful shooting.
However, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department said the case may not be completely over yet.
“The split-second response by an officer likely stopped this driver from dragging an officer to his death, a response we believe was justified under the circumstances,” said Nicholas Paolucci.
“We strongly disagree with this verdict and are reviewing the city’s legal options,” he concluded.