A Smithtown restaurant worker mistakenly shot by a Suffolk police officer looking for robbery suspects in 2010 will receive $1.5 million in a settlement approved Tuesday by the county legislature.
Henry Morales, 37, filed a federal lawsuit in 2013 alleging assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment, and civil rights violations after he was shot in the spleen and stomach during a car stop on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station.
Morales spent 15 weeks in the hospital and continues to suffer emotionally and physically, said his attorney, William V. Ferro.
“He still cries when he talks about it,” said Ferro, a partner in the law firm Ferro Kuba Mangano Sklyar PC, with offices in Hauppauge and Manhattan. “It’s as vivid in his mind today as it was the day it happened.”
Luis Mangual, the officer accused of shoting Morales, is still a member of the force, the department said. Mangual asked to apologize to Morales after the settlement was announced in court in September, Ferro said.
“The circumstances presented in this case were regretful,” said Suffolk County spokesman Justin Meyers. “This settlement was the favored course of action for all parties.”
Suffolk Police Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo was not immediately available for comment. The department declined to comment Wednesday.
At 3:50 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2010, police received a 911 call that three Hispanic men had robbed a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express on New York Avenue in Huntington Station and fled on foot.
About 20 minutes later, Mangual pulled over a Honda Accord with three Hispanic men inside. Morales, 37, a Honduran native, was in the back seat.
According to court papers, Mangual said he approached with his flashlight in his left hand and service weapon in his right, and yelled in English for them to put up their hands.
Morales, who is not fluent in English, said in a desposition he had his hands up; Mangual said he did not.
Mangual said when Morales bent down, he shot through the back passenger window twice before his gun jammed. Morales was handcuffed and flipped on his back before officers responding to the scene realized his was shot, according to his desposition.
The two other men in the car with Morales, who were plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, each reached $25,000 settlements with the county last September, Ferro said.