The Newburgh City Council has approved a settlement with the estate of Michael Lembhard, fatally shot during a confrontation with city police in 2012. The settlement awards his estate more than $81,000.
The council was divided over the decision, voting 4 to 3 in support of the settlement. “My heart bleeds for the whole family,” said Councilwoman Cindy Holmes. “This is for the children.”
The vote authorized a total settlement of $81,378.44 following a lawsuit brought against the city by family members including Rachel McCants, the maternal grandmother of at least one of Lembhard’s three children. McCants is the executor of the estate.
“It needs to be discussed,” said Councilman Torrance Harvey, who voted against the settlement with councilwomen Regina Angelo and Hillary Rayford, explaining he felt he needed more information.
Holmes voted along with council members Karen Mejia, Genie Abrams and Mayor Judy Kennedy in support of the settlement.
“It is a sincere wish of this council that the resolution reached in this case will provide a foundation for a brighter future for the children of Michael Lembhard,” Kennedy said, reading a prepared statement Monday.
“We continue to express our condolences to the Lembhard family and our respect for the work our police officers do each and every day under very difficult conditions.”
Lembhard was shot on March 7, 2012, while being arrested by police. Lembhard, 22, lunged at police with a knife. He was shot 15 times. City police officers Nicholas Cardinale and Eric Henderson were not charged in the shooting, which ignited racial tensions and a slew of protests around the city.
“This kid’s life was worth $81,000?” asked Mark Coolidge of the council, expressing anger over what he and other family members described as a pittance in exchange for his nephew’s life.
Several family members yelled obscenities at the council before they were escorted out of the meeting by police.
City Corporation Counsel Michelle Kelson expanded on details on the settlement. “The city received one notice of claim and one lawsuit,” Kelson said. “The plaintiffs in this claim are Rachel McCants, who was named by the Surrogate’s Court of Orange County as the representative for the estate of the deceased, Michael Lembhard,” and two mothers of Lembhard’s children.
They were all represented by attorneys, who requested the appointment of a federal mediator in the case, Kelson said. “This was a voluntary process,” she explained. “They did not have to agree. But, the people in the room, with the help of the mediator, reached a resolution to try and provide a financial nest egg for the living children.”
The Surrogate’s Court will “decide how this money is placed in trust for these three minor children until they reach the age of majority,” Kelson said. “That’s the major premise of the settlement,” she said.
Regarding family members at the meeting who appeared not to have been aware of the settlement, “that is on the representatives of the individuals who brought the lawsuit,” said Kelson. She added, “The value of an individual life – there is no price tag for that.”
Rayford became visibly upset as she spoke about the shooting following the vote. “It’s heavy on our hearts as a community,” she said.
By SHANTAL RILEY