The city of San Diego has agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a college student who was stopped and assaulted by fired Police Officer Richard Draper during a freeway altercation.
The settlement, disclosed Wednesday by the lawyer for student Scott McMillan and the city attorney’s office, comes after a decision in December by the San Diego Civil Service Commission to uphold the dismissal of Draper, a 10-year police veteran who built a reputation as an aggressive officer who was the object of many citizen complaints.
Police commanders fired Draper because of the incident involving McMillan, which occurred in February, 1988, along Interstate 8 in El Cajon. Draper, who was off duty at the time, chased McMillan at high speed before he cornered him at an exit ramp, pulled him from his vehicle and struck him in the head with his service revolver.
McMillan’s attorney, Tom Adler, filed the suit against Draper and the city during the Civil Service Commission proceedings.
“Officer Draper was terminated primarily as a result of this incident, and we didn’t feel it (the subsequent lawsuit) was a very good case for trial, quite frankly,” said James Chapin, a deputy city attorney, in explaining why the city agreed to settle the suit. He said his office recommended approval of the $60,000 settlement, which the City Council approved Monday.
Chapin said one of his main concerns about the lawsuit going to trial was the city’s exposure to high attorney fees and court costs, which can be granted to plaintiffs in cases involving civil-rights violations. He said that, had the city lost at trial, it might have had to pay up to $75,000 in attorney fees and court costs alone, plus whatever judgment would be entered for McMillan.
“That’s what made the substantial difference to us,” Chapin said.
Adler said that McMillan, a student at San Diego State University, agreed to the settlement because the trial would have been years away. “Scott’s in college and could use the money now,” he said.
Draper was never prosecuted for criminal assault in the freeway attack, although Adler said he urged both the county district attorney and the state attorney general to file charges.
The settlement of the civil suit against Draper marks the second time in seven months that Adler has settled a case against Draper and the city.
In August, a client, Richard Boesen, settled a suit for $30,000 in a case in which Boesen allegedly bumped into Draper in a crowded courtroom hallway, then was falsely arrested by Draper for assaulting a police officer.
Draper amassed more than 25 complaints from citizens alleging excessive force during his career.
He shot and killed a man in 1980 in a case that was ruled justified. He was involved in two other shootings that later were ruled accidental.