By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor
Rockford City Council approved a settlement agreement at its Dec. 15 meeting worth more than $1.1 million in the federal civil rights lawsuit brought against the city in response to the Aug. 24, 2009, officer-involved shooting death of Mark Anthony Barmore.
Barmore, 23, was shot to death in the basement of Kingdom Authority International Ministries, 518 N. Court St., Aug. 24, 2009.
Barmore, an African-American, had an outstanding arrest warrant and was being sought for questioning after a woman alleged he’d threatened to cut her throat with a knife the night before.
Once spotted by white Rockford Police officers Oda Poole and Stan North, who were advised the suspect may be armed, Barmore fled inside Kingdom Authority International Ministries church. Barmore was cornered in a basement boiler room, where daycare staff and children were present nearby. Barmore allegedly tried to wrestle Poole’s gun away, resulting in the use of deadly force.
A grand jury and other agencies ruled the police use of deadly force justified.
In the approved release and settlement agreement, the Barmore estate will receive $1,115,500 in exchange for a release of liability and dismissal with prejudice of all claims against the City of Rockford and other named defendants in the Estate of Barmore v. City of Rockford, et al. case.
The City of Rockford issued the following press release (in italics) following the council’s approval of the settlement agreement:
By execution of the settlement agreement, the City of Rockford and all individual defendants do not admit liability or fault for the allegations of wrongful death or excessive force in 09-cv-50236. The settlement agreement was reached after lengthy negotiations with retired former Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney as mediator. Both he and Senior United States District Court Judge Philip G. Reinhard recommended the terms of the settlement agreement.
Mr. Barmore died after an altercation with police that occurred on Aug. 24, 2009, as City of Rockford Police Officers Oda Poole and Stan North were attempting to take Mr. Barmore into custody on a warrant issued for felony probation violations and for questioning on domestic violence complaints. Mr. Barmore’s estate filed suit against the city, Poole and North on Oct. 8, 2009.
The facts and circumstances of the incident were investigated by the Illinois State Police, working with members of the Cook County Public Integrity Unit. The Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office presented the results of the Illinois State Police investigation to a grand jury, which found the use of force to be justified.
The city also retained Independent Assessment and Monitoring (IAM), a California consulting firm specializing in use of force investigations and analysis, to assist the city in its administrative review of the incident. While concurring with the grand jury’s finding of a justified use of force by officers, IAM’s review of the Barmore shooting assessed Rockford Police Department policies and practices, training and management, and made recommendations to better prevent and respond to use of force incidents, including officer-involved shootings.
IAM validated many of the programs the department had already begun developing, such as the Early Warning System and the use of data to better monitor officer interactions with the public. Additionally, the Rockford Police Department implemented IAM recommendations, such as revising its use of deadly force investigation policies and protocols, establishing a use of force board, expanding training and management on use of force, and increasing communication and improving relationships with the minority community.
As part of the Rockford Police Department’s continued commitment to excellence, the department pursued and received accreditation status from the Commission on Accreditation Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in late 2008, which was affirmed in 2011. Through many departmental and community efforts, City of Rockford Police use of force incidents and complaints of excessive use of force have markedly decreased over the past several years. The department continues to emphasize managing and monitoring officer activity, ongoing policy review, and ongoing training and technology integration to improve officer and community safety and community satisfaction with the Rockford Police Department.
Attorneys for both officers North and Poole issued press releases Dec. 16.
Following (in italics) is the text of the press release from North’s attorney, Ronald A. Barch, of Cicero, France, Barch & Alexander, P.C., in Rockford:
During the Rockford City Council meeting conducted on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, an appropriate quorum of the Rockford City Council approved a settlement of the federal civil rights lawsuit filed in connection with the officer-involved shooting death of Mark Anthony Barmore on Aug. 24, 2009. The settlement, which was facilitated by retired Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney and presiding District Court Judge Philip G. Reinhard, obviates the need for a jury trial and brings to close five years of intensive litigation.
Given the amount of projected costs, attorney fees and expert expenses associated with a jury trial of a civil lawsuit involving the volume of evidence and complex legal matters at issue in the Barmore case, as well as a prevailing national climate equally ripe for either legal, well-intentioned social discourse or misguided criminal unrest, the city’s decision to settle the Barmore case makes good economic and political sense. However, the settlement does not represent a resolution on the merits favorable to Mr. Barmore. A Winnebago County Grand Jury previously found that the use of force in this case by Officer Oda Poole and Stanton North was legally justified. This conclusion was confirmed by no less than three additional and separate independent investigations: (1) the United States Department of Justice; (2) the Illinois State Police; and (3) Independent Assessment and Monitoring, LLC.
All responsible citizens are saddened by the events that occurred on Aug. 24, 2009. However, all objective analysis indicates the use of force by Mr. North and Officer Poole that day was reasonable under the totality of circumstances as they then existed.
Poole’s attorneys, Jerrod L. Barenbaum and Michael F. Iasparro of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, in Rockford, issued the following release (in italics):
We have learned that the City of Rockford has decided to settle the Barmore litigation stemming from the 2009 shooting death of Mark Barmore in Rockford, and that the result of the settlement will be dismissal of the entire case, including the case brought against Rockford Police Officer Oda Poole. In a case in which the Plaintiff, until very recently, sought $10 million, the city was able to eliminate the ongoing costs of litigation for around a tenth of that, the majority of which will go to Plaintiff’s attorneys for legal fees and expenses.
While we appreciate and understand the need for the city to make a financial decision like this, it was our hope that we would have an opportunity to take this case to trial to present the overwhelming physical and testimonial evidence that we feel would have led a jury to conclude that Officer Poole and Officer North were completely justified in their actions on Aug. 24, 2009. Witness accounts suggesting that Mr. Barmore was shot while holding his hands up, or while lying face down on the ground, or that Mr. Barmore did not grab and attempt to take control of Officer Poole’s gun, were not credible and do not comport with the physical and forensic evidence in the case.
Neither Officer Poole nor Officer North are paying any amount of money, and both have maintained that their conduct was appropriate from the day of the occurrence to the present. The settlement by the city does not change that, and no court, arbitrator, or jury has ever concluded otherwise. The settlement by the city should not be interpreted as anything more than what it is — a decision by the city to eliminate the ongoing costs of expensive, complex litigation.
Posted Dec. 16, 2014