The city of Billings will pay $550,000 to the family of a man killed by police in 2014, according to the terms of a settlement agreement released by the city Tuesday afternoon.
The city does not admit liability for the shooting death of Richard Ramirez under the settlement agreement. It also releases Billings Police Officer Grant Morrison, the officer who fatally shot Ramirez, from liability.
The family of Richard Ramirez, 38, who was killed by Morrison during a traffic stop, filed suit against Morrison, the city, and Police Chief Rich St. John in 2016, arguing that Ramirez' rights were violated. The claims against St. John were later dismissed.
The case was scheduled for a jury trial beginning March 4, but the court was notified the parties had reached a settlement the week before. Attorneys for the city declined to release the settlement amount until it had been signed by all parties.
Morrison shot Ramirez during a traffic stop in an alley off Fifth Avenue South and State Avenue. Ramirez was a passenger in the back seat and a suspect in a robbery and shooting the previous night. Ramirez, who was unarmed, did not comply with Morrison’s orders to put up his hands. Morrison, who had earlier been been cleared of fatally shooting Jason James Shaw in 2013, testified that he feared for his life.
In a statement accompanying the settlement, the city noted that a 2015 coroner's inquest following the shooting determined that Morrison's actions were justified.
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"The defendants stand behind the decision of the jury in the coroner’s inquest that Officer Morrison acted reasonably in light of the circumstances he faced at the time, but agreed to settle this case in order to avoid the costs of civil jury trial and the inherent uncertainties of a trial," the statement reads. "The city does not intend to comment further on this case."
Following the coroner's inquest, Ramirez's family expressed disappointment with the jury's decision. His mother, Betty Ramirez, told The Billings Gazette at the time that she disagreed with the jury's decision, and a family friend called the proceedings "one-sided."
Julio Ramirez, the father of Richard Ramirez and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in 2015, "They treated my son like an animal, not like a human."
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages. The Ramirez estate was represented by J.R. Casillas of the Datsopoulos, MacDonald and Lind law firm in Missoula. The city was represented by Gerry Fagan and Adam Warren of the Moulton Bellingham law firm in Billings.
Casillas did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.
Billings has one of the highest rates of fatal police shootings among U.S. cities of similar size and has contributed half the fatal police sh…