Almost two years after four white Riverside police officers shot and killed a black woman passed out in a car, the city has finalized a $3-million legal settlement with the woman's survivors, family representatives and attorneys involved in the case said Wednesday.
Tyisha Miller's family will receive $500,000 immediately and is planning to accept the rest in installments over the next 15 years, said the Rev. Bernell Butler, Miller's cousin and a family spokesman. Riverside has already met a $500,000 insurance policy deductible with legal expenses in the case, so the settlement will not be paid by the city's treasury.
Butler said Miller's mother will use the money to move to a neighborhood where she is less well-known and to educate her grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He said part of the money might be used to erect a monument to Miller in Riverside.
The family will continue lobbying federal prosecutors to bring criminal charges against the officers who were involved in the December 1998 shooting. Butler said the family finalized the settlement to put the mother's mind at ease. Otherwise, it could have been two years before the case reached trial.
"I didn't say it was fair," Butler said. "But this has taken its toll. We have made some significant changes in terms of making Riverside a better place."
After 19-year-old Miller passed out in a Nissan Sentra with the radio on and the doors locked, four police officers said that they tried to wake her up, and that she lunged for a pistol on her lap. They fired 24 times, striking her with 12 bullets.
The shooting sparked criticism that the Police Department is racist--one witness claims an officer referred to the cries of Miller's relatives as "Watts death wails." Miller's family charged that "racial animus" led officers to shoot her.
The case also prompted the U.S. attorney's office to launch an investigation of the police force, and pushed the city to adopt reforms.
The officers involved in the shooting have been fired, and are fighting to get their jobs back. They have protested the settlement, insisting they have a right to agree to any terms. Attorneys in the case say it could be perceived as an admission of wrongdoing.
But Andrew Roth, an attorney representing the Miller family, said the U.S. attorney's office will not weigh the settlement in deciding whether to seek criminal indictments against the officers.