VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A jury has ruled in favor of India Kager’s family in their civil wrongful death lawsuit against Virginia Beach, saying police officers were at fault when she was killed in an officer-involved shooting in 2015.
Two of the four police officers named in the lawsuit were found partially liable, and the family will receive $400,000 for each found negligent. The family had sought $30 million in damages.
Kager died in the crossfire between police and a homicide suspect outside a gas station in September 2015.
Kager was driving a car — with Angelo Perry riding in the passenger seat and her 4-month-old child in the backseat.
Perry was wanted in connection to two murders and police believed he was on the way to commit another one.
Officers performed a vehicle takedown operation at a 7-Eleven. Police say Perry fired at officers first — and officers returned fire, killing Kager and Perry. The baby was unharmed.
Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle ruled in 2016 that officers were justified in the shooting and didn’t file criminal charges.
The judge on Friday threatened a mistrial, accusing attorneys of the plaintiffs of bringing up a policy change that has happened since the 2015 shooting. The defense claimed knowledge of this change could taint the jury.
“While we were hoping it would be more, we were satisfied that the fact they found that there was a problem with the way this particular matter was handled by the police on that night,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Kevin Martingayle.
Kager’s family spoke briefly after the verdict.
“Her story was heard and that’s very important.” said Kager’s mother.
Two officers were found partially liable, while two others were not.
10 On Your Side asked how that happens in a case like this
“I think that involves some matter of speculation but one thing the jury could have been looking at in a compromise type verdict was that the two officers, Ferreira and Ziemer, who they elected to find liability against were the ones whose rounds were recovered from inside Ms. Kager,” said Deputy City Attorney Christopher Boynton.
Kager’s family attorney says this case wasn’t about money.
“India Kager was more than a number. We were trying to get recognition. This was a badly executed SWAT take down and it should never happen again,” said Martingayle.
“Constant training, constant policy, we constantly look at everything we do and we evaluate everything we do, but the moment that something is enacted it’s driven by the actions and reactions of the other person,” said Chief of Police Jim Cervera
The deputy city attorney says either side can appeal.
He says they’re going to speak to the officers, brief the city council and make a decision after that.
Before the trial, the deputy city attorney says the city offered the plaintiffs $750,000. He says the plaintiffs declined that and requested $1.5 million, so they went to trial.