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D.C. settles lawsuit over teen’s fatal shooting

- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

The family of a 14-year-old boy fatally shot by an off-duty Metropolitan Police Department officer has reached a settlement with the D.C. government in the civil case filed after the boy's death, according to court documents filed in federal court Thursday.

The terms of the settlement were not listed in court documents, but the family of DeOnte Rawlings initially sought $100 million. The Blog of Legal Times, which originally reported the settlement, reports that a "substantial monetary settlement" was reached.

"To avoid the uncertainty and unpleasantness of the ongoing litigation for the Rawlings family and the District of Columbia in the wake of this deeply unfortunate incident, we thought it was in the best interests of the public to resolve this matter amicably if possible," said Ariel B. Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel to the Attorney General. "The settlement represents a fair and reasonable outcome."

The lawyer representing the Rawlings' family could not be immediately reached. When reached Friday, attorney Wayne Beyer who represents the police officer, James Haskel, said he was not authorized to comment on the case.

Rawlings was fatally shot Sept. 17, 2007, in a Southeast neighborhood by Haskel, who thought the boy had stolen a minibike from him. Haskel claimed that Rawlings fired at him first as he and another off-duty officer, Anthony Clay, chased the boy and shot him in the back of the head.

The shooting and details that emerged through the subsequent police investigation both shocked and angered the community. It was determined that after the shooting, both officers left the scene and failed to render aid to Rawlings. The stolen motorbike in question was recovered two days later at the Upper Marlboro home of a friend of Haskel's. The gun that officers said Rawlings' fired at them was never found.

D.C. and federal investigators cleared both Haskel and Clay of any criminal wrongdoing. The way the city and the police department reacted to the shooting, including the city's decision to pay for funeral expenses for Rawlings, compromised their case, said Fraternal Order of Police chairman Kristopher Baumann.

"As a result of that the District had no ability to defend itself in a civil case," Mr. Baumann said, adding that the FOP did not represent the officers in the case.

A police spokeswoman could not be reached Friday to comment on the settlement or say whether the two officers remain employed by MPD.

In an unrelated 2009 shooting, Rawlings' older brother, George Rawlings, was fatally shot as he boarded a Metro bus while returning from a funeral for another shooting victim.

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