An undated family photo of Kenny Lazo and his son...

An undated family photo of Kenny Lazo and his son Kenny Lazo Jr.

Suffolk County has agreed to a $20 million settlement with the family of Kenny Lazo, a Bay Shore man fatally beaten by police after a traffic stop in 2008.

The settlement comes seven months after a jury awarded his family $35 million following a three-week trial in the Eastern District of New York. The county sought to overturn the verdict, saying the evidence did not justify such a large payout. In March, both sides said a settlement had been reached.

Frederick K. Brewington, attorney for the Lazo estate, said the settlement was appropriate as opposed to continuing to litigate a case that has dragged on for 15 years.

“The death of Kenny Lazo was a tragic outcome that did not have to happen,” he said. “This settlement is indicative of the impact that the wrongful actions of officers can have.”

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lazo’s family in 2009 argued that Suffolk police officers used excessive force when they beat Lazo, 24, with their fists and heavy flashlights and stopped his blue Cadillac without cause. It argued county officials conducted sham investigations to avoid accountability.

Suffolk officials said the officers stopped Lazo after they watched him participate in a drug transaction. They said he was combative when they tried to take him into custody, endangering officers’ lives as he struggled with them while vehicles sped dangerously by on the Southern State Parkway.

Newsday first reported last month that a settlement had been reached in the case, but the amount had not previously been disclosed.

Members of the Suffolk Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, which signs off on large settlements, on Tuesday approved the agreement in a 8-0 vote. Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), the committee’s chairman, said $10 million would be paid from county funds and $10 million from the county’s insurance provider. Trotta, a former Suffolk County police detective, said he voted “grudgingly” in favor of the settlement.

“I feel for the deceased, but he was fighting with the police … people die when they resist arrest. It's a fact of life," Trotta said.

Brewington said the jury verdict showed Lazo was a victim and did not resist arrest.

“What was proven in court was that Kenny Lazo was beat with 36 blunt force trauma injuries to his body that led to his death,” Brewington said.

An autopsy conducted by the county medical examiner determined Lazo died from cardiac arrest “following exertion associated with prolonged physical altercation from multiple blunt impacts.” The autopsy also concluded that obesity was a factor in Lazo’s death.

Suffolk County, in its most recent annual financial report filed in 2022, estimated it will pay about $615 million in settlements and judgments stemming from legal claims filed against the county, many of which are tied to alleged law enforcement misconduct.

Suffolk paid at least $21.7 million in more than 80 settlements last year, according to documents provided through a Freedom of Information request.

That number does not include a $12.8 million late December settlement reached with Rodolfo Taylor, formerly of Central Islip, who spent 26 years incarcerated for a string of gas station robberies and later had his conviction overturned.  

With Michael O’Keeffe

Suffolk County has agreed to a $20 million settlement with the family of Kenny Lazo, a Bay Shore man fatally beaten by police after a traffic stop in 2008.

The settlement comes seven months after a jury awarded his family $35 million following a three-week trial in the Eastern District of New York. The county sought to overturn the verdict, saying the evidence did not justify such a large payout. In March, both sides said a settlement had been reached.

Frederick K. Brewington, attorney for the Lazo estate, said the settlement was appropriate as opposed to continuing to litigate a case that has dragged on for 15 years.

“The death of Kenny Lazo was a tragic outcome that did not have to happen,” he said. “This settlement is indicative of the impact that the wrongful actions of officers can have.”

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lazo’s family in 2009 argued that Suffolk police officers used excessive force when they beat Lazo, 24, with their fists and heavy flashlights and stopped his blue Cadillac without cause. It argued county officials conducted sham investigations to avoid accountability.

Suffolk officials said the officers stopped Lazo after they watched him participate in a drug transaction. They said he was combative when they tried to take him into custody, endangering officers’ lives as he struggled with them while vehicles sped dangerously by on the Southern State Parkway.

Newsday first reported last month that a settlement had been reached in the case, but the amount had not previously been disclosed.

Members of the Suffolk Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, which signs off on large settlements, on Tuesday approved the agreement in a 8-0 vote. Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), the committee’s chairman, said $10 million would be paid from county funds and $10 million from the county’s insurance provider. Trotta, a former Suffolk County police detective, said he voted “grudgingly” in favor of the settlement.

“I feel for the deceased, but he was fighting with the police … people die when they resist arrest. It's a fact of life," Trotta said.

Brewington said the jury verdict showed Lazo was a victim and did not resist arrest.

“What was proven in court was that Kenny Lazo was beat with 36 blunt force trauma injuries to his body that led to his death,” Brewington said.

An autopsy conducted by the county medical examiner determined Lazo died from cardiac arrest “following exertion associated with prolonged physical altercation from multiple blunt impacts.” The autopsy also concluded that obesity was a factor in Lazo’s death.

Suffolk County, in its most recent annual financial report filed in 2022, estimated it will pay about $615 million in settlements and judgments stemming from legal claims filed against the county, many of which are tied to alleged law enforcement misconduct.

Suffolk paid at least $21.7 million in more than 80 settlements last year, according to documents provided through a Freedom of Information request.

That number does not include a $12.8 million late December settlement reached with Rodolfo Taylor, formerly of Central Islip, who spent 26 years incarcerated for a string of gas station robberies and later had his conviction overturned.  

With Michael O’Keeffe

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME