A Lynchburg man mistakenly shot by police has reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit against two officers involved in the incident for an undisclosed sum, according to attorneys involved in the case.
The civil suit claimed Lynchburg Police Officers Edward Ferron, 42, and Savannah Simmons, 23, acted “unreasonably” when they shot Walker Sigler in his Link Road home in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018.
“Following extensive negotiations, the issues addressed by this lawsuit have been resolved by the parties in a manner which reflects the seriousness of these events and the gravity of Mr. Sigler’s and his family’s injuries and losses,” John Lichtenstein, Sigler’s attorney, wrote in a statement Wednesday.
“This was an important case for Mr. Sigler and his family, and, they believe, for the whole community,” the statement continues. “Mr. and Mrs. Sigler express their most sincere thanks and appreciation to the Lynchburg and wider community for the support they have received during this most difficult experience. Challenges remain. And they look forward with hope.”
The lawsuit, filed in June in U.S. District Court in Lynchburg, sought $12 million in damages. According to Lynchburg City Attorney Walter Erwin, the city’s insurance company will pay an undisclosed sum to Sigler.
“This was a tragic incident and now that the lawsuit has been resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction, it is hoped that everyone will be able to move forward with their lives,” Erwin said Wednesday night.
The settlement comes more than six months after Ferron and Simmons pleaded no contest to misdemeanor criminal charges stemming from the incident. As part of the plea deal, the two avoided jail time and were ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.
The conclusion of the lawsuit marks the second time in the last decade the city has reached a settlement after alleged police misconduct. In 2011, the city agreed to pay $250,000 to the family of Clarence Beard Jr., a Lynchburg man who died in police custody in 2006.
Ferron and Simmons have both since resigned from the police department. Police officials declined to comment.
In Lynchburg Circuit Court in May, the officers' lawyers argued police had reason to believe a crime had been committed inside the home and Ferron and Simmons feared for their safety when they heard Sigler approach the open front door, unaware he was the home’s owner.
The civil complaint accused the officers of violating Sigler’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they attempted to "search and seize" the home without a warrant.
“There was no justification in law and no reason in fact for their decision to draw their loaded firearms and, without a warrant and without any threat to their safety, to enter the Siglers’ home,” the complaint stated.
The complaint also alleged the officers were “grossly negligent” when they opened fire into Sigler’s home. Officers hold qualified immunity from civil lawsuits over simple negligence, but have no legal protection when their conduct arises to “gross” negligence.
The suit largely repeated the same narrative outlined in a seven-page report compiled by Bryan Porter, the special prosecutor appointed to oversee the criminal case. The complaint said Sigler was asleep on a couch in the first floor den when police approached the front of the home with guns drawn.
The police calls announcing their presence awoke Sigler and he walked toward the front door to find the barrel of a gun pointing through the opening. He quickly shut the door, the lawsuit stated.
“When Mr. Sigler first shut the door, the door did not latch, but instead rebounded to a partly open position. With a second push, Mr. Sigler shut the door and it latched and remained shut,” the complaint says.
After entering no contest pleas in March, attorneys for the officers argued the sound of the closing door and the sight of Sigler caused the officers to fear for their safety and to fire their weapons.
Ferron told investigators that he saw a “clenched first” come from behind the door “for a second.” He admitted he did not see anything in the fist, according to the report compiled by Porter, who also serves as the Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney.
Ferron and Simmons both fired twice into the home. One round fired by Simmons traveled through the home’s door and struck Sigler, the complaint stated.
Sigler was “catastrophically and permanently injured” as a result of the shooting, according to the complaint. He was hit in his right thigh, shattering his femur. Blood loss resulted in permanent vision impairment and since the shooting he has undergone several surgeries.
“Mr. Sigler’s actions were not in any way threatening,” the complaint stated, “and reasonable police officers in the subject circumstances would not have perceived a threat and would not have reacted by firing at the front door and at the closed front door.”