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'Thank goodness we had a video': Madison man receives $1.1 million settlement in police misconduct lawsuit

A 20-year-old Madison man will receive a $1.1 million settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed after police tackled and repeatedly punched him during a mental health crisis captured on video, his attorneys said Friday.

David Clash-Miller was 17 and living in a foster home on June 3, 2019, when Madison police were called to take him to a mental health facility for treatment, an agreement made by his foster parent and the school resource officer, according to the lawsuit.

Clash-Miller asked to retrieve his cellphone from the basement before leaving. Once downstairs, officers slammed him against a door and into the couch, put a spit hood over his head and then punched him repeatedly in the head, the lawsuit says.

A home security camera in the basement captured the encounter. None of the officers were criminally charged or disciplined in the case. Clash-Miller signed the settlement agreement Thursday with the City of Madison's insurers.

"Hopefully, it will make the police accountable and thank goodness we had a video in the home," said Bob Gingras, of Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, who was part of the legal team representing Clash-Miller.

Madison City Attorney Michael Haas said the settlement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.

"An outside agency reviewed all of the evidence surrounding this incident and determined that the officers’ use of force was within accepted methods and procedures of their training, as well as objectively reasonable under the relevant legal standard," Haas said in an email.

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In fall 2019, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway acknowledged the findings of the outside report but added: "We in the City of Madison aspire to higher performance standards than simply not violating the constitutional rights of those we serve."

The outside review was completed by UW-Madison police and found officers had acted legally but missed opportunities that could have led to a better outcome. Officers told the investigator that Clash-Miller had made threats to them, his foster parent and a contractor at the house that day.

The video does not contain any sound. Officers also said Clash-Miller spit on them, a claim denied by the teen's legal team.

The officers "denied any misconduct but the video proved otherwise," another of Clash-Miller's attorneys, Charles Giesen, told the Journal Sentinel.

The settlement calls for Clash-Miller to receive about $2,670 each month for life, guaranteed to 30 years, beginning Jan. 1, and for a one-time $425,000 payment to a client trust account at Gingras, Thomsen and Wachs.

Since the 2019 incident, Clash-Miller has had other encounters with police. The day after he signed his settlement, Clash-Miller was charged with disorderly conduct with a hate crime modifier, resisting an officer, battery or threat to a police officer and four counts of felony bail jumping.

Clash-Miller, who is Black, approached students inside UW-Madison's Witte Hall over two days and made threatening statements to them, appearing to single out a student who was speaking Spanish and another student who was Asian, according to a criminal complaint.

Clash-Miller "actively refused to participate" in court proceedings Friday and his initial appearance was rescheduled, according to online records.

"I think he's struggling," said Gingras, his attorney in the civil rights case.

Contact Ashley Luthern at ashley.luthern@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @aluthern.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Madison man gets $1.1 million settlement in police misconduct lawsuit