After fatal traffic stop shooting, Springfield agrees to pay $4.55M, review police use of force

By Rob Zako
July 21, 2020
Stacy Kenny
Stacy Kenny

UPDATE 12/28/2020: Added links to recent Washington Post podcast and Atlantic story.

UPDATE 10/17/2020: Added information from Washington Post story about police shootings involving people in the throes of a mental health crisis.

  • On March 31, 2019, during a traffic stop, Springfield police killed Stacy Kenny, a 33-year-old Springfield resident, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Court records show Kenny legally changed her name and gender in Lane County Court on September 20, 2018.
  • On April 16, 2019, Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow ruled that a Springfield police officer was lawful in his use of force.
  • On July 15, 2020, lawyers for the family of Kenny announced that the city of Springfield had agreed to pay $4.55 million and to undertake police reforms.
  • Nationally, about a quarter of all fatal police shootings involved someone police said was in the throes of a mental health crisis.

Tragedy

On March 31, 2019, the final moments of Stacy Kenny’s life are captured on a recorded 911 call. The 33-year-old Springfield resident, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, begs an emergency operator to explain why she’s been pulled over. Amid screaming and rustling sounds, police officers smash the windows on her red Nissan, Taser her twice, punch her in the face more than a dozen times and try to pull her out by her hair.

But Kenny, 33, who legally had changed her gender but still appeared to be a man, was anchored to the car by a locked seat belt. Her life ends, as does the 911 call, when she tries to flee by driving away with one of the officers still inside the car. There’s a burst of gunfire, then an officer says: “We are all okay. Bad guy down.” (Source: Washington Post)

Police officers not charged

On April 16, 2019, Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow ruled that a Springfield police officer was lawful in his use of force to shoot and kill Stacy William Kenny.

The D.A. identified Sgt. Rick A. Lewis as the officer who fired his service weapon six times at Kenny. (Source: Register-Guard)

City of Springfield settles wrongful death lawsuit for $4.55 million

The city of Springfield will pay $4.55 million and review Springfield police’s use-of-force policy and its accountability as a result of a settlement of a civil rights violation lawsuit filed by the family of a woman fatally shot by police during a 2019 traffic stop.

The settlement, announced by the family’s lawyers on July 15, 2020, requires the Springfield Police Department to submit to a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of its use of force accountability processes; make needed changes to its use-of-force policy; train its police officers to use the minimum force necessary to accomplish their lawful objectives; and create transparency by requiring a public annual report on use of force.

In addition, the city of Springfield agreed to pay $4.55 million, the largest settlement for a police use of force case in Oregon, according to the family’s lawyers. (Source: Register-Guard)

Death part of national trend

The death of Stacy Kenny was one of 1,324 fatal shootings by police over the past six years that involved someone police said was in the throes of a mental health crisis—about a quarter of all fatal police shootings during that period.

Although the number of these fatalities has declined, these confrontations remain a deadly and vexing issue, especially in small and midsize metropolitan areas. A Post analysis shows fatal police shootings of those who are mentally ill are more likely to take place in areas with populations of fewer than 1 million, like Springfield, which is part of a metropolitan area of about 382,000. (Source: Washington Post)

Further reading

External links