On July 14, 2007, Nathan E. Smith, 17, was caught breaking windows at an elementary school near Gladstone, Oregon. Several officers responded, including Deputy Bryan Lavigne, 36. During his arrest, Smith, an African-American, made racially insulting comments to deputies, including Lavigne, who is white.
Other deputies reported that after Smith was subdued, Lavigne, an 8-year veteran of the department, assaulted Smith. The next day, Lavigne also reported the incident to a supervisor, and was placed on paid leave.
On August 16, 2007, Lavigne was arrested on assault, strangulation, and official misconduct charges stemming from his assault of Smith. He resigned soon thereafter and is presently awaiting trial.
By October 12, 2007, Smith and his family agreed not to sue Lavigne or the County. In exchange, the school district agreed not to press criminal charges against Smith, and the County is paying the $675 window repair bill.
At the time of the incident, Smith was scheduled to enter the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a residential high school for older teenagers. Smith could not have entered the program with pending criminal charges, confirmed Karen Rownsley, the program’s deputy director. “His mom had gotten him into the program and wanted to make sure he could [still] get into it,” said Edward S. McGlone, III, Assistant County Counsel. “That was the driving force.”
Black teenagers being assaulted by white deputies raises serious legal, political, and moral issues, but county officials deny that race had anything to do with the quick settlement. Naturally, the county “would be interested in resolving the matter early if we thought there was fault,” said McGlane. “Race doesn’t enter into it.”
Portland attorney Thomas M. Steenson, who represents many plaintiffs in law enforcement excessive force cases, says the county got off cheap. “If excessive force was used, it’s not a reasonable amount of compensation. “Six hundred dollars isn’t even a nuisance settlement.” Of course, if Smith and his family are satisfied with the outcome, the settlement may be a reasonable resolution, adds Steenson.
Source: The Oregonian
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