MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal jury has awarded $7 million to the family of a woman killed by two police officers in Madison, Wisconsin, saying the officers used unreasonable force.
The civil lawsuit was brought by relatives of 26-year-old Ashley DiPiazza, who was shot to death in 2014.
Dane County prosecutors previously cleared the officers, Justin Bailey and Gary Pihlaja, of any criminal liability.
DiPiazza was holed up at her apartment with a gun, where she had started drinking after a relationship-ending argument with her boyfriend. The officers testified that they shot DiPiazza when she emerged from a bedroom with a gun to her head and ignored their commands to drop the weapon.
DiPiazza’s family said officers shot her 11 times even though she threatened no one but herself, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Jurors found a third officer, Carey Leerek, who negotiated with DiPiazza bore no responsibility.
“The jury ruled loud and clear for justice for Ashley DiPiazza,” said her father, Joe DiPiazza.
But Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said the verdict is “outrageous.” He fears the verdict will lead officers to second-guess their decisions.
“The verdict sends a message that officers have to wait to be fired upon or have a gun directed at them before taking action to protect themselves. That is inconsistent with their training,” he said.
This is the third suit to be brought against Madison police in recent years after a fatal shooting. The family of Tony Robinson settled a civil rights lawsuit with the city’s insurance company for $3.35 million earlier this year. The 19-year-old was fatally shot after allegedly punching Officer Matt Kenny in a stairwell in 2015. The family of Paul Heenan, who was fatally shot in 2012 by former Officer Stephen Heimsness, settled a lawsuit for $2.3 million in 2015.