BALTIMORE (AP) — A $6.5 million settlement has been reached in the death of an unarmed man who was having a mental health crisis when he was shot by a Baltimore County officer, attorneys say.
Lawyers for Eric Sopp’s family on Tuesday announced the settlement in their federal lawsuit, The Baltimore Sun reported. Sean Naron, a spokesperson for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., confirmed the settlement amount but made no further comment to the paper.
The shooting happened in November 2019 after Catherine Sopp called 911 to report that her son had been drinking and threatened to kill himself before driving off, according to the lawsuit.
Officer Gregory Page shot at the 48-year-old after he defied commands and got out of his car on the shoulder of Interstate 83. Body camera footage released in February 2020 shows that Page fired at least eight times.
Sopp’s mother and two children claimed that Page escalated the encounter by shouting conflicting commands and drawing his gun. They also said the officer didn’t wait for a mental health crises team to arrive, violating department policy.
The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to criminally charge the officer. Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin said Sopp’s erratic driving, previous suicidal behavior and disregard for commands made the shooting “justified.”
Page still works for the department, a police spokesperson told The Sun.
This is the county’s second multimillion-dollar resolution for a police killing in recent months. In August, claims brought by the parents, daughter and estate of Korryn Gaines — a Black woman fatally shot after a standoff in 2016 — led to a $3 million settlement.
Sopp family attorney Andrew Freeman said in an email that police need to learn how to “de-escalate encounters with people in distress.”
“Meaningful change will only occur if the County strengthens its crisis intervention programs, provides mandatory training for all police officers, and hires additional crisis intervention personnel,” he wrote.