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Council to ‘begrudgingly’ OK settlement with man shot by police

City lawmakers reluctantly agreed Monday to settle a claim brought by a man shot by a police officer, but they insisted the settlement make clear that the officer was not at fault.

The Common Council is scheduled to vote on a $42,500 settlement with Lamont D. Williams, who is paralyzed from the waist down, when it meets at 2 p.m. today.

Williams was shot by a police officer Sept. 24, 2008, on Kermit Avenue. City officials said that Williams was armed and that the officer had acted in an appropriate manner. In September 2009, a jury convicted Williams of weapons possession, menacing a police officer and loitering. He was sentenced to seven years in prison on those charges and on a previous charge of drug dealing.

Following a caucus meeting Monday, Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said the Council will approve the settlement “begrudgingly,” because it didn’t want to be viewed as rewarding bad behavior, but it also didn’t want to take the chance of having to pay out more if the case is brought to trial.

At the time of the shooting, police said Williams, then 20, had been arrested at least 10 times since 2005 on weapons and narcotics charges.

Police Officer Jason Mayhook was cleared of criminal responsibility by a grand jury in 2009.

Mayhook had testified that Williams, who was fleeing, stopped, turned and pointed his handgun at him and other officers.

Lawmakers were hesitant to approve a settlement that did not sit well with the officer, but Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball assured them that the officer approved of the city’s decision to settle the case and not take it to trial.

Council President Richard A. Fontana, who represents the area where the incident occurred, said he was aware of criminal activities on Kermit Avenue. He said that if the officer had not taken the actions he had, he might have been shot himself.

The circumstances of the case were discussed privately by lawmakers and the city’s top legal staff last week, but Monday some Council members discussed details of the incident during a caucus meeting, which is conducted publicly on the day before the Council meets in full session.

“It’s not an admission of guilt on behalf of the city, the police officer or the Police Department,” Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said of the settlement.

Attempts to reach Williams’ attorney were not immediately successful.