TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County has agreed to a $6.5 million settlement with the family of Eric Sopp, the man who was fatally shot by a police officer in November 2019 during a mental health crisis, the law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy announced.
In a statement released Tuesday by the law firm, Sopp’s mother, Catherine, said she hopes the county reevaluates crisis intervention training for police officers.READ MORE: First African American To Lead The National Guard Was Honored After 38-Years Of Service
“My son lost his life due to one officer’s egregious actions,” she said. “Justice for Eric has always meant that the County must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a tragedy like this in the future.”
Sopp’s family filed a lawsuit against the county and Officer Gregory Page in October 2020, alleging county police routinely use excessive force against peopl with mental health disabilities and those experiencing mental health crises, and that Page violated Sopp’s civil rights as well as federal laws prohibiting disability discrimination.
On the night of November 26, 2019, Sopp, who suffered from mental health issues, took off after threatening to kill himself with an ice pick but left the pick at home, his family said at the time.
Catherine Sopp called police and warned a dispatcher he was driving drunk and suicidal.
“There needs to be someone out there looking for his car before he hurts himself,” she told a dispatcher according to audio of the 911 call released by police.
Officers pulled Sopp over between the Mount Carmel and Belfast Road exits.READ MORE: A Dad Who Traveled 1,200 Miles For Covid-19 Care Is Finally Going Home. Here's What He Wants You To Know
Body-worn camera footage released by the the police department showed Page approaching the passenger side window of Sopp’s Toyota Camry with his gun drawn and knocking on the window multiple times.
The officer repeatedly ordered Sopp to turn off the car and show his hands. Sopp said he wouldn’t turn off the car.
About a minute later, Sopp got out of the car and Page opened fire.
At the time, police said they did not find a weapon on Sopp but declined to say if one was found in the car. The lawsuit claimed Sopp was unarmed.
“When I called 911 that evening, I was seeking assistance to protect both Eric and other drivers,” Catherine Sopp said today. “I never dreamed that a police officer would kill my unarmed son.”
One of the family’s attorneys, Chelsea J. Crawford, said the county needs to practice de-escalation 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,” Crawford said.MORE NEWS: Baltimore County Urges People To Get Vaccinated With Super Weekend Flu Clinic
Sean Narron, a spokesperson for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr, said, “The County considers this matter resolved and has no further comment at this time.”