by Naja and Arnaud Girard...
Eight attorneys, eight police officers, the City Manager, the Chief of Police, and Joshua Eimers met yesterday in a conference room at City Hall to try to settle the civil rights lawsuit regarding the death of Charles Eimers. Eimers, 61, was the father of four who died a year ago on South Beach at the hands of Key West police officers.
Yesterday, the case was tentatively settled when the City’s insurance carrier agreed to pay $900,000 to the Eimers children.
“It was never about money,” said Joshua Eimers, Charles Eimers youngest son, “It was about uncovering the truth. We felt we were lied to. The lawsuit was mainly a means to find out what happened to our father. We still don’t know everything. But we got some accountability.”
“What about an apology?”
“No, they told us we would never get that. Which I thought was odd. Even in Ferguson, where there was no video and a lot more questions, the Chief of Police apologized.”
“So, no apologies?”
“The City Manager shook my hand and I felt he meant it. He seemed like a real nice guy.”
At the Horan law firm on Whitehead Street one of the lead attorneys in the Eimers case, Darren Horan, had some surprising information. “The City's insurance policy only covers up to one million dollars,” he said, “You can sue the officers for $10 Million, but all you're really going to get is the insurance money.”
This is the way it works: For each incident the insurance is capped at one million dollars. The lawsuit may have already eaten up about $100,000 in defense attorney fees from that war chest. Quite possibly all that’s left is $900,000.
In the settlement agreement, the City admits no wrong doing or liability nor do any of the officers.
The parties agreed to blame everything on Gary lee Lovette, the officer who had the misfortune of inadvertently recording himself on a Taser device admitting: “We killed him.”
After being presented with the evidence, the insurer agreed to settle the claim against Officer Lovette for $900,000. All the other claims are forever withdrawn.
So officer Lovette is thrown to the wolves. Of course that doesn’t explain how the dashcam videos disappeared, who butchered and edited the audio recordings, why KWPD failed to inform the medical examiner and why they waited to call for the autopsy, even 24 hours after they could no longer pretend not to know of Mr. Eimers' death.
Officer Lovette was certainly not the only one on Eimers back, and he was not the only one who made up stories under oath about Eimers “sitting” or “trying to walk” or “fighting” or “never having his face in the sand.” And his inadvertently audiotaped confession included other officers: "WE killed a man."
We asked Joshua Eimers if there was anything the defense attorneys had said during negotiations that raised a doubt in his mind about how his father died.
“They kept bringing up my father’s health.”
“Whether he was a walking heart attack?”
“Yes, that really was the only thing they had. But I know my dad was not in such bad health. His doctor told us he might need surgery in 3-5 years and that would improve his health. No one ever said that he was a walking heart attack. “
In the end the insurers are offering the maximum they can pay under the policy. Arguably, their lawyers must believe the case had all the merit it needed.
It was an emotional evening talking about the man we in Key West knew so little about. Joshua was leaving early the next morning. We drove him around town after a dinner at Azure. People were singing in the bars, cruising on their bicycles in the quiet streets.
“My dad would have loved it here,” said Joshua. We stopped on South Beach, walked on the sand, listened to the ocean.
The City Commissioners must now decide whether to go along with the settlement. There will be a closed session when the Commissioners will vote to accept or reject the agreement reached during mediation on Thursday. It might be a hard sell to some Commissioners who have adamantly denied that any officers were at fault.
A story, which started a year ago with a lie about a man collapsing on the beach, may finally come to an end.
To access all articles by Naja and Arnaud Girard on the in-custody death of Charles Eimers click here.
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