Baltimore County has agreed to pay yet another settlement in case of unwarranted police brutality. The county will be paying $6.5 million to Eric Sopp’s family, according to the their attorneys on Tuesday. Sopp was shot and killed by Baltimore County Police Officer Gregory Page in 2019 while he was experiencing a mental health crisis.
The county recently agreed to pay $3 million in a settlement with Korryn Gaines’ family in August. Gaines, a Black woman, was shot and killed by officers in her apartment in 2016. Her son, who was 5 years old at the time, was shot in the cheek and elbow.
Sopp’s family filed the lawsuit in October 2020 against both the county and Officer Page, who is still on the force today, CBS Baltimore reports.
“My son lost his life due to one officer’s egregious actions,” said Catherine Sopp, his mother, according to CBS. “Justice for Eric has always meant that the County must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a tragedy like this in the future.”
CBS reports that the suit alleged that the county police regularly use excessive force against people with mental health disabilities. It also claims that Page violated Sopp’s civil rights and federal laws that prohibit disability discrimination.
On Nov. 26, 2019, Sopp’s mother called the police and warned a dispatcher that he was suicidal and driving drunk. According to CBS, Sopp told his family he was going to kill himself with an ice pick before he left the house. He left the pick behind.
“There needs to be someone out there looking for his car before he hurts himself,” she told the dispatcher, CBS notes.
Here’s what happened that night on the shoulder of Interstate 83, from the Baltimore Sun:
The department released footage last year from the officer’s body camera. The video shows Page draw his gun and approach Sopp’s Toyota Camry as they’re pulled over on I-83. The officer orders Sopp to place his hands on the dashboard and turn off the car. Sopp twice tells the officer that he won’t turn off the car.
“I’m getting out,” he tells Page.
“Don’t get out of the car, sir!” the officer orders him. “Don’t get out!”
When Sopp steps out, Page fires at least eight times and kills him near the exit for Belfast Road. Three months later, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to bring criminal charges against the officer.
The Sun reports that Robin Coffin, the deputy state’s attorney, said the shooting was justified because Sopp didn’t obey the officer’s commands and he was driving erratically and suicidal.
Sopp was unarmed.
The lawsuit accused the officer of violating department policy because he did not wait for a mental-health crisis team to arrive. In a statement released on Tuesday by the law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, Sopp’s mother said she hopes the county will reevaluate crisis intervention training for police officers. The family’s attorneys also said that officers need more practice in de-escalation methods.
CBS notes that Sean Narron, a spokesperson for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr, said the county considers the case resolved and will not be issuing any further comments.
“When I called 911 that evening, I was seeking assistance to protect both Eric and other drivers,” Catherine Sopp said in an email, according to CBS. “I never dreamed that a police officer would kill my unarmed son.”