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Buffalo considers $600,000 settlement to parents of robbery suspect killed by cop

Buffalo lawmakers are considering paying $600,000 to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit against a Buffalo police officer who shot and killed a robbery suspect during a confrontation in 2009.

The Common Council on Tuesday tabled a motion to approve the settlement with the parents of Matthew Connors, who was 23 when he died. The proposal was referred to council's Claims Committee for discussion on Sept. 29.

Police officials said Officer James T. Reese fatally shot Connors on Aug. 7, 2009, after Reese went to Connors’ East Eagle Street apartment to question him about a gunpoint robbery that day at Seneca Pharmacy, 1979 Seneca St., where narcotic drugs had been stolen.

Reese told investigators that he shot Connors because Connors pulled a gun on him. Police learned later that the weapon Connors had was only a replica of a gun. The narcotics taken from the pharmacy were recovered in Connors’ apartment, police said.

In January 2010, five months after the shooting, an Erie County grand jury decided not to file any charges against Reese relating to the shooting. But Steven M. Cohen, an attorney for Connors’ family, accused Reese of wrongdoing in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court.

In the court papers, Cohen said Reese entered Connors’ apartment “without backup” and “physically struck and otherwise battered” Connors. The suit alleged that Connors “was lawfully at his residence” when Reese entered.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011 by Connors’ parents, originally sought $3.1 million in damages, including $1 million for their son’s wrongful death; $100,000 for his pain and suffering; $1 million for the city’s negligent hiring, training and supervision of the officer; and $1 million for the alleged beating they say the officer gave their son before the shooting.

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