The city of Miami will pay $1.5 million to the family of a 26-year-old man killed by a police officer outside a pool hall in 2011 — the final in a string of settlements involving a spate of controversial shootings.
Miami commissioners agreed Friday to pay the family of Drew Pozdol to settle a lawsuit filed in federal court by Pozdol’s mother after Officer Rafael Borroto shot her son outside Via del Rio on Northwest 27th Avenue. The settlement brings the payouts to the families of three men killed in 2011 by Miami police to $2.8 million.
“There's no amount of money that can compensate or vindicate the life of a child,” said Domingo Rodriguez, attorney for Cathlyn Ann Pozdol. “But to the extent the city paid $1.5 million in a civil suit related to this, I think speaks volumes.”
Borroto, who was at the pool hall around 2 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2011, to grab a cup of coffee, fired four shots after he said Pozdol shoved him and came at him with a six-inch blade. Borroto said the confrontation with Pozdol started because Pozdol, a regular who’d frustrated the management at Via del Rio, was denied entry into the venue but repeatedly tried to get inside anyway.
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To the extent the city paid $1.5 million ... I think speaks volumes
Domingo Rodriguez, attorney for Cathlyn Ann Pozdol
The family brought witnesses who said that, while a knife was recovered at the scene, they didn’t see Pozdol holding one at the time he was shot. The city argued that those same witnesses initially told investigators they hadn’t seen the shooting, which Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes said Friday was deemed justified.
Pozdol’s shooting further heightened tensions in 2011 about shootings involving Miami police officers. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado would later ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the police department, eventually leading to charges that Miami cops had engaged in a pattern of excessive force and failed for years to properly train officers and investigate shootings.
I think what we're seeing is, hopefully, the finality of what was a difficult period in our history
Commissioner Francis Suarez
On Thursday, the city officially signed off on a policing agreement with Justice, putting that investigation to bed. But Justice’s findings proved damaging to the city in court, and helped the families of several victims win settlements against the city. Last year, the estate of Lynn Weatherspoon, shot on New Year’s Day 2011 in Overtown, won a $350,000 settlement. The family of Travis McNeil, 28, killed in 2001 during a traffic stop in which he was unarmed, won $975,000.
City Attorney Victoria Méndez said Friday the settlement would be the final among cases involving those controversial shootings. She said insurance would pick up all but about $400,000 of the cost of the Pozdol settlement, but it was unclear Friday night whether the city paid the entirety of the previous settlements.
“I think what we're seeing is, hopefully, the finality of what was a difficult period in our history,” said Commissioner Francis Suarez.