On Friday March 17, 2017, a Brooklyn jury returned a $2.5 million verdict in favor of the mother of a 25-year-old African American man who was shot dead by the Brooklyn NYPD in 2008. The verdict came as a surprise to many since the deceased’s untimely death was ruled an accident by the District Attorney’s office nine years ago.
The events surrounding the man’s death began on August 7, 2008, when deceased plaintiff Ortanzso Bovell was discovered by the Brooklyn South Auto Larceny squad attempting to break into a 2004 Mustang GT. At the time, Inspector John Chell headed the Larceny squad. Inspector Chell claimed that as he and his team approached Bovell, the young man attempted to flee the scene in the stolen Mustang. In his haste, Bovell sideswiped Chell according to several witnesses.
Inspector Chell alleges that at this point he fell, causing his weapon to discharge and fatally strike Bovell in the back. The defense maintained that the shot was discharged accidentally and therefore Bovell’s death was not intentional. However, plaintiff’s attorney Jon Norinsberg argued that the ballistics report contradicted Chell’s account and that the shot that killed Ortanzso Bovell could only have been discharged from a standing position.
After a five week trial, the jury agreed with Mr. Norinsberg’s argument and ruled that Bovell had been intentionally shot by the police. Bovell’s grieving mother, Lorna Wright-Bovell, commends the jury for their verdict and says that while her son was not blameless in the events that led to his untimely death, he certainly did not deserve to die. Mr. Norinsberg states that Bovell’s death is a stark contrast to police-related deaths that have occurred since the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement. While Bovell’s 2008 death was ruled accidental by the NYPD and the officer involved received no disciplinary repercussions, similar deaths since the movement began have sparked massive protests and media attention.
The case is: Lorna Wright-Bovell a/a/o Ortanzso Bovell v. The City of New York, New York Supreme Court, County of Kings
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