- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha City Council has approved a legal settlement with a family that accused police of excessive force, even though the family said it felt bullied into the agreement.

Five members of the Johnson family sued the city in 2014, alleging police seized property without a warrant and used excessive force. Three plaintiffs - brothers Demetrius, Octavious and Juaquez Johnson - were arrested during the incident in 2013, which was videotaped by a neighbor. It prompted the firing of six officers, though two were later rehired.

The family agreed in court on April 18 to the terms of the agreement, which calls for the city to pay $6,000 to each of the five family members and to pay up to $60,000 toward their attorney fees. Lawyers agreed to waive some of their costs, so the family would receive $45,000.

But two weeks later, the family asked the City Council to vote down the agreement, according to the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1XzhqSp ). The settlement was contingent upon the council’s approval.

Council members delayed their decision until Tuesday, when they approved the settlement on a 7-0 vote. Assistant City Attorney Ryan Wiesen previously told council members they had to vote on whether the settlement agreement was in the city’s best interests.

A court transcript shows that all five family members who filed the lawsuit told U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart they participated in mediation, agreed to the settlement and understood its terms.

Sharee Johnson, whose sons were arrested during the incident, said Tuesday that she and her family didn’t realize their oral agreement was binding.

One of her sons, Octavious Johnson, said he wants to try to take the matter to trial. The family could try to do so by refusing the formal settlement offer from the city. The city could then file a motion asking the court to enforce the settlement, and a judge would have to decide whether the case could go to trial.

The family’s attorney, Diana Vogt, said mediation sessions are confidential and that she couldn’t speak about the Johnsons’ version of events.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com


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