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Phoenix Admits Blame in Death of Black Man

<i> From Reuters</i>

City officials have admitted that Phoenix was at fault in the racially tinged death of a black double amputee in a 1994 clash with police and have agreed to pay $5.3 million to the man’s parents.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council on Wednesday approved a settlement acknowledging for the first time that Phoenix was to blame in the death of 25-year-old Edward Mallet.

The settlement comes three months after a jury awarded Mallet’s parents $45 million in civil damages.

“Phoenix has agreed to accept the jury’s finding that the city is liable for the death of Edward Mallet,” the agreement said.

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The settlement mandates changes to address what critics have said could have prevented the young man’s death--more intensive training for police on use of force and sensitivity to cultural diversity.

In addition, plans call for $500,000 from the settlement to be used to create a cultural diversity center named after Mallet that will “teach tolerance and understanding.”

It also will be used to educate citizens about the “benefits of diversity,” the settlement states.

Both sides said they hope the agreement would put an end to the case, which became a lightning rod for protests against police brutality and prejudice and badly divided the community.

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Mallet died in August 1994 after he was pulled over by police, who claim he became abusive and had to be subdued with pepper spray and force by several officers.

His parents, George Mallet and Sherry Jones, deny that he was abusive.

An autopsy ruled that the death was accidental, and three investigations cleared the police of any wrongdoing.

The head of the police union said Wednesday that he continues to believe officers acted properly. “There is no way that I believe that the officers involved did anything wrong,” said Terry Sills of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Assn. “No way.”

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The Rev. Oscar Tillman, state president of the NAACP, said he thinks City Hall officials feel the same way.

“All they’re doing is admitting it to try to save some money,” Tillman said. “It’s a hollow gesture. It’s not sincere when you’re doing it to make this go away.”


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