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Former Hempstead family gets $8.3 million in excessive force case

A federal jury has awarded a former Hempstead family $8.3 million in damages after a trial where the plaintiffs claimed Nassau and Hempstead police officers used excessive force while trying to remove a mentally ill, but nonviolent man, the plaintiffs’ attorney and court papers said.

Shauy’b Greenaway, 39, and his parents, Avery and Sharon Knight, were pleased with the verdict in their favor, said Frederick Brewington, who tried the case before U.S. District Court Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall during a weeklong trial in federal court in Brooklyn.

“They finally feel as though justice has seen the light of day,” Brewington said of his clients. “This shows that when police come into your house and are told to leave when they don’t have any right to be there, they should leave. . . . What they decided to do was use unnecessary force to take Mr. Greenaway into custody when he wasn’t a threat.”

Nassau County officials could not be reached for comment.

Don Ryan, Hempstead’s newly elected mayor, said he was unfamiliar with the case and could not comment.

The case focused on an incident seven years ago in which police tried to remove Greenaway from the family’s Hempstead home after the family called 911.

In his complaint, Brewington said Sharon Knight called Hempstead officers on April 25, 2010, to escort her son, who suffers from bipolar disorder, to a hospital because he was displaying signs of distress.

Hempstead officers arrived first at the Amherst Street house and unsuccessfully tried to coax Greenaway out of a bathroom, where he was painting, Brewington said, adding that Greenaway was not combative but declined to go.

Nassau police officers arrived and also tried to persuade Greenaway to come with them, but at least one officer later resorted to shooting him with a Taser gun up to four times to subdue him, the suit said, adding that the device knocked Greenaway down in the bathroom, where he was then covered with paint.

Greenaway suffered extreme anxiety and puncture wounds in his chest, where he has a permanent scar, the suit said, adding that his mental health also began to deteriorate after the incident.

Greenaway’s parents, Brewington said, were also roughed up in scuffles with some of the officers after they demanded that the officers leave the home.

CORRECTION

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the judge presiding over the trial. U.S. District Court Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall presided over the trial. A previous headline also incorrectly described the amount of damages awarded by the jury. It was $8.3 million.

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