The family of a Bay Shore man who died after being beaten by police with flashlights and fists during a 2008 traffic stop was awarded $35 million in damages by a federal jury on Thursday.
Frederick K. Brewington, attorney for the family of Kenny Lazo, said “justice has been served,” Newsday reported. Lazo’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County and five police officers in 2009.
“It was absolutely appalling how the Suffolk County police physically abused and humiliated Mr. Lazo, then tried to cover it up,” Brewington said, “No family should have to go through what Mr. Lazo’s family had to.”
Jurors awarded Lazo’s family $13.5 million in compensatory damages and $21.5 million in punitive damages.
Lazo was 24 when he was pulled over by police on a ramp to the Southern State Parkway in Bay Shore. Marc Lindemann, an attorney representing the police, said Lazo, who was suspected to have made a drug sale and committed various traffic violations, was belligerent. He said Lazo struck an officer in the head with his elbow and reached for an officer’s gun, calling the chain of events “life-threatening” for the police.
“They used force that was reasonable, appropriate and justified in this situation,” he said.
Brewington accused the officers of fabricating a reason to pull over Lazo and using their authority to beat and humiliate him, including stripping off his clothes and shoes and beating him when he attempted to flee. Lazo, who was initially taken to a nearby police precinct instead of a hospital, had 36 injuries throughout his body, Brewington said.
Lindemann said Lazo had superficial injuries that did not require hospitalization.
Lazo was later found unresponsive on the floor of a holding cell and taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy determined he died from cardiac arrest “following exertion associated with prolonged physical altercation with multiple blunt impacts.” Obesity was also determined to be a factor in his death.
Top: Photo of Kenny Lazo (left). (Credit: Change.org)