Justice for Family of Florida Man Killed by Excessive Police Force

Justice for Family of Florida Man Killed by Excessive Police Force

A federal jury has returned $2.3 Million in restitution to the family of Joshua Salvato, an unarmed man killed by members of the Marion County, Fla. Sheriff’s Department. The jury found that Deputy Lauren Miley used excessive force against Salvato, that Deputy Norman Brown willfully and wantonly acted in bad faith by inflicting conscious pain on him, and that Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair violated department protocol in his failure to investigate the shooting.

The lawsuit is a response to the July 6, 2012 shooting death of Salvato, who was killed and put through tremendous suffering by Miley and Brown despite being unarmed, and there being no grounds for Deputy Miley to arrest Salvato or take him into custody. Deputy Miley encountered Salvato along a Marion County roadway at 10:45 PM that night, upon responding to a 911 call about a disturbance along that stretch of road. After questioning Salvato, and despite having determined that he was not carrying a weapon, Salvato called for backup in the person of Deputy Norman Brown, who proceeded to drive Salvato’s head into the ground as the two officers attempted to handcuff him, despite their having no evidence linking him to a crime. 

What happened next was made shockingly clear to the jury through video of the events captured by the patrol car’s dashboard camera. Salvato, fearing for his life, escaped the hold of Brown and Miley, and Miley proceeded to shoot Salvato in the abdomen as he was moving away from the deputies. Rather than seek medical help for Salvato at that time, Miley handcuffed Salvato as he bled, and Brown tasered him twelve times in six minutes, after which Salvato died of his gunshot wounds. 

The federal lawsuit brought by the Salvato family alleged that Joshua’s civil rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this trial. The defendants were not truthful during the Grand Jury investigation.  If not for the civil justice system, the full scope of the evidence would never have been heard and justice would not have been served,” said  Theodore Leopold, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, who is among the attorneys who respresented the Salvato family in the case, and is also President of the Public Justice Foundation. The other plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case were co-counsel Antonio M. Romanucci of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, and Janet Varnell of Varnell & Warwick, P.A, also a member of Public Justice’s Board of Directors.

The remarks of the victim’s father, Vincent Salvato, in response to the jury’s decision are a testament to the civil justice system’s role in holding the powerful to account and in giving voice to the powerless: “Through this verdict, our community stood up and spoke on behalf of my son Josh. They sent a message that the Sheriff is not above the law and his position does not grant him immunity for wrongdoing nor does it protect him from being held accountable.”

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