The Buffalo Common Council has approved a $4.5 million settlement to Wilson Morales, who was 17-years-old when he was shot by a Buffalo police officer. Eight years after the incident, Morales remains in a wheelchair, paralyzed by the bullet. Geoff Kelly of Investigative Post says the injury settlement would not have occurred without some dogged investigative work by the plaintiff's attorneys.
A grand jury declined to hand down an indictment in the case. According to Kelly, the matter almost faded until attorneys "were struck by the discrepancies between the police version of events of that evening" and the version offered by Morales. They were correct in their belief of the existence of physical evidence that would clarify the situation.
"They quickly discovered that there was, in fact, an eyewitness. There was a prisoner in the back of the police car," Kelly said. His recollection gave credence to Morales' story.
Input was sought from experts in crime reconstruction who reviewed ballistics information.
"Their findings also aligned with the victim's version of events."
An officer involved in the incident, Kelly says, "actually submitted two different incident reports, one of which contained an admission that he may have continued firing at Morales' van as it pulled away from the scene."
According to Kelly, that is in violation of police procedures.
As the case developed, city attorneys came to the conclusion that a case settlement was preferred to taking the incident into court.
"It's one of the biggest settlements the city has ever agreed to," Kelly said.
"But in the years of 2013 and 2018, the city paid out almost $7.5 million in lawsuits related to the police."