Phoenix to Pay $6.5M for Boy Paralyzed in Shooting

June 9, 2009

The city of Phoenix will pay $6.5 million to settle a suit filed by the family of a 6-year-old boy who was left paralyzed by a stray police bullet.

The lion’s share of the settlement will paid to Adrian Trevino, who was in bed in his Maryvale, Ariz., home when the bullet pierced the wall and struck him in the back on the night of July 13, 2006. Adrian is now 9 and uses a wheelchair.

Police were firing at an armed suspect who had fled from officers, broken into one nearby home and was in Trevino’s side yard.

Several officers fired a total of 65 shots at suspect Michael Anthony Hernandez of Phoenix. Thirteen bullets hit the 24-year-old and he fell dead.

But four shots fired by a police rifle struck the Trevino home, and Adrian’s stepfather carried the wounded boy outside.

A Phoenix police investigation determined the bullet that hit Adrian had been fired from Officer Michael Conrad’s assault rifle.

Police said Hernandez aimed his .38-caliber revolver at officers but never fired.

Trevino’s family originally filed a $26 million claim against the city for physical and emotional injury, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. The Phoenix City Council agreed to pay the family a $6.5 million settlement.

“Any time this sort of situation occurs, it’s horrible for the family and horrible for police officers,” said Councilman Tom Simplot, whose district includes the neighborhood where the incident took place. “Everybody is in pain, and we do the best we can.”

Adrian received $5.7 million. His mother, Estela Ruiz, got $650,000, and Adrian’s two younger siblings each were awarded $65,000.

“This is a pretty horrific injury to Adrian and of course it affects the whole family, but you get to a point and say, ‘Can money really fix what’s wrong?'” said Phoenix trial attorney Tom Quigley, who represents the family.

Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a police spokesman, declined to comment about the incident or say whether Conrad was disciplined after the shooting. He confirmed that Conrad, a 17-year police veteran, remains on the force.

Attorneys for the city and plaintiffs have disagreed over whether the use of deadly force by police against Hernandez was appropriate, given the residential surroundings. The city argued that Hernandez’s careless actions set in motion a tragic chain of events.

Adrian remains a a “positive and happy little boy,” despite his disability, Quigley said. But he’s wrestling with the idea that an officer’s bullet left him disabled.

“As a little boy, you idolize police officers,” Quigley said. “The fact that it was a police officer who shot him is difficult to process.”

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