Hartford officials have agreed to a $450,000 settlement with a championship-winning high school football coach who was beaten by city police officers during a street argument in 2004, ending a dozen years of legal fighting in a federal brutality lawsuit.
Tylon Outlaw, 44, a tutor and head football coach at Bloomfield High School, got into an argument with a plain-clothes officer — not knowing he was an officer — outside Union Station on Dec. 17, 2004. Another officer struck Outlaw in the head and right knee with a baton and several other officers “piled” onto Outlaw, punching and kicking him, witnesses said.
Outlaw said he still suffers the effects of a broken kneecap, and stress has been overwhelming at times amid the lawsuit, surgeries, medical bills and missing time from work.
“It’s been a long 14 years and we’re still talking about it,” Outlaw said Thursday. “The stress level just going year after year and just trying to end this fight has been stress enough. I know every single day I wake up and take a step something happened to me. I’m just looking for that final day of closure.”
The Hartford city council approved the agreement Monday, but it has yet to be signed. A city lawyer declined to comment.
Outlaw first sued the city, officer Michael Allen and detective Troy Gordon for $3 million in 2007 in federal court, alleging assault and other claims. Allen and Gordon denied wrongdoing, saying Outlaw started the fight and resisted arrest — claims disputed by Outlaw and other witnesses.
Outlaw and Gordon began to argue after, Gordon said, Outlaw refused to move out of the road while talking to a taxi driver who was a friend. Gordon, who was wearing plain clothes, said Outlaw punched him and he fought back before other officers joined the fray.
Outlaw denied striking Gordon. He said Gordon first kicked him and as he tried to defend himself Allen came up from behind and started beating him with a baton.
It took nine years for the case to get to trial as more than 150 motions and other legal actions were filed.
A jury found Outlaw proved his claims against Allen, but did not prove the allegations against Gordon. A judge awarded Outlaw $454,000, but the case again became bogged down in appeals and other court actions. A federal appeals court upheld the trial verdicts last year.
In a related lawsuit in state court, Allen, now retired, sued the city for refusing to indemnify him — meaning he would have to pay any damages with his own money instead of the city covering the cost. That lawsuit remains pending, but is likely to be withdrawn because the city has agreed to pay the settlement.
Mayor Luke Bronin questioned why Allen was not disciplined by previous police department leaders and said the case demonstrates why police body cameras — which city officers have begun wearing — are important.
“Our department holds itself to high standards, and has responded swiftly and strongly to cases of conduct unbecoming of an officer, excessive force and even threats of excessive force,” Bronin said in a statement.
Outlaw’s lawyer, Anthony DiCrosta, said he was pleased there was finally closure after so many years.
“He’s been living with this since 2004,” DiCrosta said. “It was an incredibly traumatic experience for him. He’s moved on admirably.”
Bloomfield High School’s football team won the Class S state championship in December — it’s second title in four years.
SOURCE: DAVE COLLINS, AP