EGR paid $450K to settle suit in 2009 Taser death

An undated, courtesy photo of Matthew Bolick.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of East Grand Rapids agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed over the death of a man after he was Tasered repeatedly by police, according to documents obtained Friday by 24 Hour News 8.

Despite the settlement, the brother of Matthew Bolick said justice was not done.

“If I would have had it my way, I would have gone to trial and I would have fought it tooth and nail because they screwed up and they needed to truly pay the price for that,” Kevin Bolick told 24 Hour News 8 on Friday. “I don’t think signing a check is paying a price by any means.”

Kevin Bolick was home the night his father called police in November 2009, asking for help for his 30-year-old brother, who had “freaked out” — smashing a window and hearing voices.

As his brother struggled with officers, punching them again and again, they Tasered him repeatedly.

“It just happened so quickly, that whole situation happened so fast, he never got a chance to get help like he truly needed,” his brother said.

The medical examiner later ruled the death was caused by acute exhaustive mania, or excited delirium syndrome, not the Taser. The officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

The Bolick family attorney said the Taser played a role in the death.

In Oct. 2011, Bolick’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the two officers and the director of public safety, saying police were grossly negligent, used excessive force and that they weren’t properly trained on how to use Tasers.

Last week, the U.S. District Court approved a settlement and distribution of funds to Bolick’s parents and siblings. Of the $450,000, $263,000 will go to Bolick’s family and $187,000 will go to William Mills, the family’s attorney.

“It still feels like we lost, really,” his brother said. “They throw you some money, it’s all said and done, and nobody really talks about it anymore. Matt’s still gone; we don’t get to talk to him ever again. I miss him a lot. I miss him every single day. He was a very competitive spirit and I miss that intensity about my brother.”

The city says its insurance company will cover most of the settlement. The city’s share is its $10,000 deductible.

A source close to the case called it a “nuisance wrongful death case,” and said the settlement was “driven by economics, not by liability.”

East Grand Rapids Public Safety Director Mark Herald said the city’s insurance company “had the final say” in the settlement. He said his officers did nothing wrong and that his department’s training was “up-to-date” at the time.

“The officers responded professionally with the training they had and they would respond the same today,” Herald said.

However, after the city claimed governmental immunity, a federal judge ruled police had violated Bolick’s constitutional rights by using a Taser on him after he was handcuffed.

“To say that they would do it all over again means someone would die, a life would be taken,” Bolick’s brother said. “If you did that all over again, it means they didn’t learn their lesson by any means.”

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