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County, City Settle Lawsuit without Blame in Death of Ross

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In a change of interpretation of the magistrate’s ruling, both the City of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County have publicly stated the amount paid to the family of Chance Ross following Monday mediation in Sherman Division of the Eastern District Court of Texas.

Tuesday night the Sulphur Springs City Council approved a sum of $1,000 from the city and $349,000 from the city’s insurance carrier to settle the award. Included in the motion was the statement that in approving the amount, the city admitted no blame in the death of Ross.

Wednesday morning Robert Davis of Flowers and Davis, attorney for Hopkins County in the case, issued the following statement, “On March 6, 2017, Trident Insurance, Hopkins County’s insurance carrier, agreed to pay $65,000 to settle the lawsuit brought by Plaintiffs Shelly and Tony Ross. The insurance carrier determined that it would be less expensive to settle the case than to incur forensic pathologist expert witness fees, law enforcement expert witness fees and attorney’s fees. It was purely an economic decision on the part of the insurance company. The County fully contends that it did absolutely nothing wrong and that this minimal settlement amount reflects so. Plaintiffs have agreed to dismiss all claims against the County and all County officials and employees.”

Both the city and the county see this as a cost saving move and feel that the low amount vindicates both entities. Employees of both entities were covered in the amounts paid.

Shelly and Tony Ross sought damages for emotional distress, medical and funeral expenses, plus attorney fees.

Named in the suit as defendants were the city of Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, Sulphur Springs Police Lt. Brad Horton and officers Adrian Pruitt, Brandon Mayes, and Joe Scott, county deputies Nick Floyd and Paul Fenimore, as well as jailer Jeff Hightower. The suit claimed these officers used excessive force, failed to protect, and inflicted emotional distress.

Ross died Sunday March 8th in Trinity Mother Frances Hospital where he had been transferred from Hopkins County Memorial Hospital where he had been taken for emergency treatment following what seemed to be a cardiac arrest while in custody at Hopkins County Jail. A Tyler Justice of the Peace ordered an autopsy (complete autopsy found here) immediately following his death.

Ross, 34, was arrested early Friday evening March 6 by Sulphur Springs’ police officers who responded to a call on Whitworth Street of a shirtless man acting erratically (video from arrest found here). Prior to being booked into Hopkins County Jail he was placed in the padded violence cell where he remained for 11 minutes before being found face down and unresponsive. Officers were able to find a faint pulse and called EMS. CPR was stared at the jail and his pulse was stronger but he was not breathing on his own when he arrived at Hopkins County Memorial Hospital.

According to police reports, Ross was arrested when officers encountered him and he was said to have balled his fist and charged an officer. The officer tazed Ross but Ross was able to pull the wires out and fled. The officer pursued and a fight ensued. Officers said Ross was difficult to contain and they were forced to taze him more than once. Ross continued to resist even when taken to jail according to Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jay Sanders.

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Author: Staff Reporter

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