Billings settles excessive force claim for $105,000

2013-02-13T17:27:00Z 2013-02-14T14:23:12Z Billings settles excessive force claim for $105,000By CLAIR JOHNSON The Billings Gazette

The city of Billings has settled for $105,000 a federal lawsuit by a convicted felon who claimed a former police officer used excessive force when the officer shot him six times. 

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Tuesday issued a one-page order dismissing the case of Vincent Edward Feeley v. City of Billings as “having been fully resolved on its merits.” Each party is responsible for its own expenses.

A trial had been set for March, but the parties settled after a mediation session Jan. 17 with U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby.

The settlement amount was not disclosed in court records, but City Administrator Tina Volek on Wednesday confirmed the $105,000 figure. The Montana Municipal Interlocal Authority, the city’s insurance provider, handled the settlement and claim, she said. MMIA is an insurance pool for Montana cities and towns.

Feeley’s attorney, Brad Arndorfer of Billings, said, “We settled for what we consider a substantial sum.”

The case called into question actions by former police officer Randy Minkoff, who resigned almost a year after the shooting amid allegations of excessive force in three other arrests.

Police internal-affairs investigators found no fault with Minkoff’s conduct in two of the arrests. But Minkoff was facing disciplinary action in a third arrest in which he used his foot to force a male suspect to the ground.

The Feeley settlement is the third time that local government has paid to settle mistreatment claims involving Minkoff, who was a Yellowstone County deputy sheriff before joining the Billings Police Department.

In 1998, the county settled a lawsuit for $25,000 with man who claimed that Minkoff mistreated him during an arrest for obstructing justice. In 2003, the city of Billings paid $23,000 to settle a discrimination complaint by a deaf couple who claimed mistreatment by a group of officers that included Minkoff.

In the Feeley suit, the judge last month dismissed Minkoff and three others from the case, leaving the city as the remaining defendant. Minkoff and the other individuals were never served in the suit. The lawsuit started in state court almost two years after the shooting and was then moved into federal court in 2010, a month after the city eventually was served.

Feeley, who now uses his given surname of Canales, is on supervision after having served a five-year prison sentence for robbery. He alleged that Minkoff shot him six times on Aug. 21, 2005, during a home-invasion robbery on South 33rd Street.

Minkoff chased a fleeing Feeley down an alley and shot him in the back, Feeley said in court records. Feeley admitted that he had a handgun tucked into his waistband but claims he never displayed the weapon or threatened the officer.

The city countered in court records that Feeley had the weapon in his hand when the chase began. Then, as Feeley ducked between a wall and garbage bin, Feeley reached for the gun and Minkoff shot him.

The next day, police officials announced that a preliminary review found that the shooting was justified.



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