The mother of a man killed by Woodbury police in a 2012 hostage crisis has reached a nearly $1.5 million settlement with the city.
The settlement comes five months after a three-judge panel for the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a dismissal of Tawana Henderson’s lawsuit against Woodbury and the three police officers who shot and killed her son, Mark E. Henderson Jr. The federal appellate court ruled that the outcome of the suit should be determined by a jury trial.
According to a statement from Joseph Flynn, an attorney for the city, Woodbury officials chose to settle the case because they “faced a lengthy and expensive trial that could have resulted in an unknown verdict along with potential payment of Ms. Henderson’s attorneys’ fees.”
The settlement will be paid through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which covers Woodbury.
Mark Henderson, 19, was one of several people held hostage by Demetrius Ballinger in a room at the Red Roof Inn in Woodbury in August 2012.
As Henderson ran from the motel room, officers fired at him. The initial round of shots missed Henderson, but he dropped to the ground and was then hit by another 12 of the 17 of the officers’ shots. Police claimed Henderson hadn’t complied with orders to stay down.
Two years after a Washington County grand jury cleared the officers — Stacey Krech, Natalie Bauer and Anthony Ofstead — of criminal wrongdoing, Tawana Henderson sued the city and the three officers. She argued that the police should have noted differences in clothing between her son and Ballinger, who is serving a 36-year prison sentence.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle dismissed the lawsuit in 2017 after finding the officers acted on limited information and perceived Henderson as a threat. In overturning that decision, Chief Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith wrote that Kyle gave no weight to statements Krech gave to state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators that described Henderson surrendering to police and remaining still before the fatal shots.
Under the terms of the settlement, the city and the officers “make no admission of fault or liability” and the city maintains that the officers acted appropriately and responsibly, Flynn said.
“Based on the circumstances, the officers reasonably concluded that Mr. Henderson presented an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death to those at the scene of the incident,” read Flynn’s statement.
Shortly after the shooting, Tawana Henderson told the Star Tribune she wondered why officers opened fire during a hostage situation.
“He tried to get out to save his life,” she said.
Henderson’s attorney, J. Ashwin Madia, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.