Thursday, July 1, 2021

Autistic man wins $2.5 million settlement from city

While a 24-year-old autistic man injured during a police chase and arrest will receive a $2.5 million settlement from the City of Westland, no criminal charges will be filed against former Westland Police Ofc. Kristopher Landis accused of causing the injuries that resulted in Blair losing his eye.

The settlement with Blair was approved by members of the city council during a regular meeting in May. Blair sued the city citing injuries he sustained Jan. 16, 2020 when he was identified by several witnesses as the man who had robbed the Wayne Road Arby's at about 7:20 p.m. A restaurant employee told police that Blair grabbed cash from the drawer after telling him, “I'm gonna need all that.” Blair kept his hand in his jacket pocket but raised his covered arm implying he had a weapon, the employee told police. Two men in the restaurant witnessed Blair taking the money from the cash drawer and the restaurant manager observed the incident and called 911.

One witness flagged down a passing police patrol car and provided information about the direction in which the suspect was running. Officers observed Blair running inside the Woodcrest Apartment Complex on Wayne Road and a foot chase ensued. Five officers were involved in the chase and Blair was tased and struck with a police baton in an effort to handcuff and arrest him, according to reports from the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. 

Blair had obvious injuries to his face and was treated at the scene by EMS personnel and transported to a hospital where his eye was surgically removed due to complications from his injuries, according to official reports. 

Blair was charged with armed robbery and three counts of assaulting, resisting or obstructing a police officer but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. His competency will be heard again in 18th District Court in Westland July 14 following medical and psychological treatment ordered by Judge Sandra Cicerelli.

Worthy has declined to file any criminal charges against Landis who was accused of inflicting the blows that caused Blair to lose his eye. Landis was fired by the city about a month after the incident.

“In this case Mr. Blair was an armed robbery suspect who fled from the scene to avoid apprehension. The officers had information that he was armed from dispatch. When the officers caught up with Mr. Blair, he was given repeated verbal commands throughout the encounter. Mr. Blair failed to obey the commands,” Worthy said.

In a prepared statement, Worthy said that when all measures failed to subdue Blair, one officer admitted that he used his baton twice to strike him. She said that it is impossible to determine from the body cameras of the officers exactly which physical contact caused the injuries. She said it was clear, however, that Blair “was still fighting and disobeying commands when the baton was used.”  

 “We tried everything we possibly could do to enhance the video by reaching out to another local department and the FBI, but to no avail,” said Worthy. “We have to look at the totality of the evidence to prove any criminally charged case beyond a reasonable doubt. This cannot be done in this case with the evidence available and our inability to converse with the alleged victim. Accordingly, charges cannot be issued or sustained in this case.”

As part of the settlement, Blair is prohibited from pursuing any further claims against Westland, Westland elected officials or Westland police officers.