Suffolk County has agreed to pay $1.5 million to a Smithtown man mistakenly shot by a police officer during a search for suspects in a fast-food store robbery in 2010 in Huntington Station, according to the victim's attorney.
The settlement between the county and Henry Morales, 37, was announced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on the day jury selection was to begin, said Morales' attorneys William V. Ferro and Kenneth Mangano.
County Attorney Dennis Brown said he could not discuss details of the case but confirmed a settlement was reached in the case this week, contingent on approval by the Suffolk County Legislature.
"The county, by settling the case with Mr. Morales, acknowledged this was a horrible mistake that the police officer made and that any person who is here in the country is protected by our laws and our courts," said Ferro, a partner in the law firm of Ferro Kuba Mangano Sklyar PC, with offices in Hauppauge and Manhattan.
Officer Luis Mangual, who was accused in the shooting and remains on the police force, did not respond to requests for comments made through the police union and police department.
Police said that on Jan. 11, 2010, at 3:50 a.m., they received a 911 call that three Hispanic men had robbed a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express on New York Avenue. Police said the suspects ran away.
At 4:10 a.m., Mangual pulled over a Honda Accord on Jericho Turnpike with three Hispanic men inside, police said. Morales was in the backseat.
Mangual said he approached the car with his flashlight in his left hand and service weapon in his right, and yelled at them in English to put up their hands.
Morales said in a deposition that he had his hands up, though Mangual said he did not.
Morales said he is not fluent in English.
Mangual said when Morales bent down, he shot through the back passenger window twice, before his gun jammed.
Morales was handcuffed and flipped onto his back before officers responding to the scene realized he was shot, according to Mangual's deposition.
Morales, who only recently was able to return to work at a restaurant, suffered injury to his spleen and stomach, Ferro said.
After the settlement was placed on the record in court, Mangual asked to apologize to Morales, Ferro said. "He did and Mr. Morales shook his hands and embraced him with tears in his eyes," Ferro said.