A Bronx jury just awarded $11 million to a known heroin addict with a very lengthy wrap sheet who sued the city in 2007.
On Feb. 1, 2006, Raoul Lopez, then-27, was fleeing a traffic stop and dragging a police officer along a busy Bronx street. Lopez was then shot by another police officer, causing Lopez to be partially paralyzed on the right side of his body, The New York Post reported.
Lopez had reportedly just acquired some heroin when police stopped him for failing to stop at a stop sign at East 169th Street and Grand Concourse, court documents revealed.
Two officers, Sgt. Philippe Blanchard and Officer Zinos Konstantinides pulled Lopez over and ordered him to turn his vehicle off, but Lopez refused the order.
Officer Konstantinides reached in to grab the keys, but Lopez sped off, dragging Konstantinides alongside his car. Sgt. Blanchard reportedly shot Lopez in an effort to stop him and the speeding car.
The shot caused Lopez to suffer serious injuries, including “partial paralysis to the right side of his body,” still affecting him to this day.
Though Sgt. Blanchard reportedly feared for his partner’s life when he fired his weapon, striking Lopez in the neck, an internal NYPD review determined his actions to save Konstantinides life were “not within department guidelines.”
Lopez was eventually acquitted on vehicular assault charges linked to the incident, the Daily Mail reported.
In court, Lopez admitted that he had been arrested some 19 times in his life and of those, there were 13 convictions.
Brett Klein, Lopez’s lawyer, asked the jury for “$6 million to $9 million for lost earnings,” even though he wasn’t employed at the time of the incident. After a seven day trial, the jury ultimately awarded Lopez $11 million.
“He was at first a quadriplegic, and through hard work he has made great progress. But the loss of the function of his right arm and other permanent effects of this shooting will be with him for the rest of his life,” Klein said following the jury verdict. “We are grateful that a Bronx jury has held the City accountable for this wrongful shooting.”
Konstantinides retired from the NYPD since the incident, while Blanchard continues to serve with the police department. Neither could be reached by a New York Post request for comment.
The NYPD deferred comment to the city Law Department, who said the case might be appealed so they refused to comment.
“The split-second response by an officer likely stopped this driver from dragging an officer to his death, a response we believe was justified under the circumstances. We strongly disagree with this verdict and are reviewing the city’s legal options,” Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for New York City’s law department, said in a statement defending the actions of the officers.