City to Pay $1.2 Million to Widow of Shooting Victim

The City Council approved a $1.2 million payment to the widow of a Dorchester man who was killed by a Lynn Police Department detective five years ago.

The money was authorized without discussion at a council meeting last week. The session was closed to the public amid coronavirus fears, but shown on Lynn Community Television.

City Council President Darren Cyr asked the panel to approve the “emergency” payment to the Law Department noting the city is “under a court order to pay the judgement within 45 days.”

Following an inquiry by The Journal, City Solicitor George Markopoulos revealed the cash is for Gabriela Paling-Suazo, widow of Rafael Suazo, to settle a wrongful death suit.

The 23-year-old father of two was fatally shot by undercover officer Stephen Emery during an investigation of an alleged drug deal in the Highlands neighborhood in the summer of 2015.

Markopoulos declined to provide details on the council vote or whether the members knew why the money was requested.

Authorities allege Suazo drove his Ford Escape into Emery while trying to escape arrest. Emery then shot him in the head and the car crashed on Jefferson Street.

Suazo, a native of the Domincan Republic, was airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital where he died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Emery was taken to Salem Hospital where he was treated and released. 

A review of the incident by Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office said the shooting was justified because Emery acted in self-defense.

“The investigation found that Mr. Suazo purposefully accelerated his Ford, drove straight at and struck Detective Emery,” Blodgett said in a statement. “Emery reasonably believed that he was in danger of serious injury or death, and therefore, bears no criminal responsibility for shooting Mr. Suazo in defense of himself.”

But in 2018, Suazo’s wife filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city and Emery, then an 18-year veteran of the police force assigned to the Drug Task Force.

The 14-page federal civil rights suit alleged the shooting of Suazo, who was unarmed, was “unnecessary, unwarranted, and  unreasonable…the defendants’ actions and conduct resulted in the unlawful use of excessive force in the shooting and killing of Rafael Suazo.”

The complaint said Emery was not at risk of deadly force from the car because Suazo’s vehicle had already passed him and was headed downhill.

In 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer Boal suggested mediation and both parties agreed. The deal was finalized earlier this month.

Gabriela Suazo and her attorneys, Clyde Bergstresser and Russell Pollock, did not respond to requests for comment.

Markopoulos declined to comment on the settlement. When the suit was filed, he told The Daily Item “…the city and the Police Department will be cleared of the allegations.”

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