New Castle County agrees to pay more than $1 million to settle lawsuit over fatal police shooting

Officials in Delaware’s largest county have agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a fatal police shooting in 2021.

New Castle Delaware police car

File photo of New Castle County police vehicle. (WHYY file)

Officials in Delaware’s largest county have agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a fatal police shooting in 2021.

The settlement, obtained from New Castle County on Thursday by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request, calls for the county to pay $1.05 million to a law firm representing the family of Lymond Moses. It also calls for the dismissal of all claims against the three officers involved in the incident.

Moses, 30, was shot shortly after 1 a.m. on Jan. 13, 2021, as he drove toward the three county officers, who were patrolling in a Wilmington neighborhood where several stolen vehicles had been found.

Moses’ family sued New Castle County and Officers Roberto Ieradi, Robert Ellis and Sean Sweeney-Jones for wrongful death and excessive force. They also alleged that the officers acted recklessly and violated Moses’ constitutional rights. The lawsuit claimed the county failed to train police properly and that its policies and practices resulted in Moses’ death.

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Defense attorneys argued that the officers were justified in using deadly force, and that Moses’ own actions caused his death. A report commissioned by the Delaware attorney general’s office concluded that the officers’ actions were justified.

“Mr. Moses made a whole lot of bad decisions that night,” attorney David MacMain, representing the county, told Judge L. Felipe Restrepo during a June hearing.

Attorney Emeka Igwe, representing Moses’ family, had claimed Moses was “murdered” by “rogue officers,” and that a jury should decide whether the officers and the county should be held liable. He also rejected the notion that Ieradi, who fired the shot that killed Moses and has since left the police force, was acting in self-defense and feared for his life and the lives of fellow officers.

The settlement was signed by a representative of Moses’ estate on July 21, six weeks after a federal judge heard arguments on a motion by the defendants for a ruling in their favor without a trial. The settlement does not include any admission by the county of liability or wrongdoing.

Footage from the officers’ body cameras shows the officers found Moses unconscious in the driver’s seat of a rental car, which was parked with the transmission engaged, engine running and dome light on. A toxicology report found that the level of fentanyl in Moses’ system was more than 100 times the lethal amount. Moses woke up after an officer reached through the open driver’s side window and turned off the ignition with his baton. Moses then rolled up the window, and the officer opened the door.

“My mom live right here! Why you waking up like … ?” Moses said.

The officers told Moses they were looking for stolen cars and pointed out that marijuana was clearly visible in his car. They told Moses to “hop out,” but he refused to comply. Instead, Moses started the engine and sped away, leading to a brief pursuit that ended when he drove down a dead-end street. Moses then turned his vehicle around facing in the direction of the officers.

“Don’t do it!” Ieradi shouted before Moses floored the accelerator and drove in his direction. Ieradi opened fire as Moses’ car began angling to his left and continued firing as the car passed him.

Sweeney-Jones also pointed his weapon at the car as it began to accelerate but did not fire. Ellis began shooting as Moses’ car crashed into Ieradi’s vehicle.

MacMain noted that Moses’ car was only three feet (1 meter) from Ieradi when the officer fired his fourth shot, which went through the driver’s window and struck Moses in the head.

“I don’t believe there is any way to view that video and say these officers were not in harm’s say,” attorney Daniel Griffith, representing the three officers, told the judge.

Moses, who had a history of drug dealing and probation violation convictions dating to 2012, was wanted for a probation violation at the time of the shooting. He had been arrested on felony drug charges on two separate occasions in the year before and was on probation for drug-dealing at the time.

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