FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A federal jury has ruled against a St. Lucie County family who had filed a wrongful death lawsuit in a fatal deputy-involved shooting on the Treasure Coast.
Greg Hill was shot four times through his garage door by a St. Lucie County Sheriff's deputy after they responded to complaints of loud music coming from his home on Avenue Q in Fort Pierce in 2014.
Jurors deliberated for 11 hours over the past two days.
"I still don't see how they can't see the lack of DNA, the lack of fingerprints on the gun found in his pocket, the fact that it was found in his pocket when he was immediately incapacitated," the family's attorney, John Phillips, told WPTV.
WPTV received the following statement from St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara on Wednesday:
“We appreciate the jury’s time and effort listening to and evaluating the evidence in this case and coming to the only reasonable conclusion that our deputy acted properly in the course and scope of his very difficult job. The loss of life is always a tragedy, but the split second decision made here was a direct response to the actions taken by Mr. Hill.
Each day law enforcement officers are forced to make difficult life or death decisions, which will determine whether they go home safely to their families after every shift. I’m glad the jury recognized that and hope this brings an end to this long and difficult case.“
John Phillips, the attorney for the Hill family, issued the following statement after the verdict:
"On Jan. 14, 2014, Fort Pierce father of three Greg Hill was listening to Drake on his garage stereo when someone called the police. Less than 60 seconds after police arrived, he was shot three times through his closed garage door by an officer with a history of violative conduct. He died of an incapacitating gun shot to the head. An unloaded gun was found in his pocket with no evidence it was ever out of his pocket — no time, no DNA, no blood, no fingerprints, nothing.
The lead homicide investigator for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office admitted this week, under oath, his job was to 'corroborate' the officer’s stories and that he completely deferred to the officers and left evidence behind because of it. This trial was about the thick blue line which exists in St. Lucie County, Florida.
We filed motions seeking a different venue. They were denied despite misconduct by the sheriff's office in past trials. We were limited in our efforts to impeach Deputy Newman and he was even able to portray himself as 'poor' and accuse plaintiff’s counsel of asking questions which were 'beneath him.'
The jury of seven women was asked, 'Do you find that plaintiff Bryant has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant Deputy Newman intentionally committed acts that violated Gregory Vaughn Hill, Jr.'s right to be free from the use of excessive or unreasonable force?' After 5 hours, they said they were deadlocked. They couldn't reach a verdict. After 6 more hours, they said they reached an 'agreement.' They answered that question 'no.' They also deferred to a story which wasn't supported by facts or science.
Even the jury that awarded $4 found negligence on behalf of the sheriff’s office. As lawyers, we are taught to always respect a verdict. We obviously disagree and don’t understand how they were deadlocked and then took 11 hours to reject Mr. Hill’s plea for justice. We will be appealing. It’s heartbreaking.
We need reform to qualified immunity laws. We need laws prohibiting a law enforcement agency from investigating itself. We need reform to the federal jury system.
We've fought for 8 years and aren’t stopping now. We've won multiple appeals already and will file more. Please pray for Greg’s family and especially his three beautiful children."
Phillips plans to appeal the decision.