Nassau moves to settle suit in police shooting

Kurt Doerbecker was shot and killed by police Kurt Doerbecker was shot and killed by police after a standoff at his parents' home in Point Lookout on Aug. 31, 2011. Photo Credit: Handout ; Howard Schnapp

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The Nassau County Legislature has voted to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit by the family of a man killed by police at his Point Lookout home three years ago.

Lawmakers this week unanimously approved the agreement with Albert Doerbecker and his wife, Marie, to end the federal wrongful death case against Nassau regarding their son, Kurt.

The settlement -- reached in U.S. District Court in April and passed by county lawmakers Monday without discussion -- awards the Doerbecker family $675,000 and pays their attorneys $325,000. It must still be approved by the county's financial control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

Kurt Doerbecker, 23, was killed Aug. 30, 2011, after Nassau police officers responded to his home on a report that he was a suspect in an earlier home burglary and bar fight.

Prosecutors have said Officer Shevach Berkovits was "entirely justified" in shooting Doerbecker after he climbed out a back window and ran toward Berkovits with a long knife.

A 2012 report by the Nassau district attorney's office said Doerbecker "held the knife over his head and charged at Officer Berkovits" and another officer. Berkovits fired two initial shots, and after Doerbecker veered toward the other officer, fired another shot that "struck Doerbecker in the back of his head, killing him instantly," the DA's report stated.

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The family has called that report a "whitewash." In their lawsuit, they allege that the police response, including an armored vehicle and 60 to 100 officers, was "grossly disproportionate." The suit said Doerbecker had not committed a burglary; instead, it said he had stopped by a home to purchase marijuana from a man whose mother mistakenly thought Doerbecker had broken in. The description of the suspected burglar's clothing matched that of the person involved in the bar dispute, the lawsuit says.

The federal suit, filed in May 2012, said Doerbecker, after being confronted by police at his home, climbed out a back window in fear. It said he had a "small pocket knife" that was not drawn when he was shot while running from police.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement Tuesday that the settlement "saves taxpayers and the Doerbecker family the expense -- both emotional and monetary -- of a trial and further litigation."

PBA President James Carver did not return a call for comment Tuesday but had previously lauded prosecutors for "confirming that the shooting was proper and justified."

John Cuti, an attorney for the Doerbeckers, declined to comment on the settlement, citing NIFA's pending consideration.

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