City settles in wrongful death lawsuit

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The City of Ironton has settled with the family of a man who drowned in the Ohio River to avoid police officers. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed.

Attorney William Gustavson, who represented Aaron Roe’s estate, said the agreement had been reached with the help of a mediator. The final paperwork for the settlement has not yet been filed. A jury trial had been set for Feb. 28.

Roe died in 2007 following an incident with police after being at the Fuzzy Duck bar.

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His parents, Lois Porter and James Roe, filed the wrongful death lawsuit May 30, 2008, in United States District Court.

The lawsuit, which names the City of Ironton, its police department as well as officers Brian Pauley, Stephen Wilson and Mitchell Crum, alleges that on June 2, 2007, Roe was at the bar with his brother, Allen Roe, when Roe bumped into a ceiling fan.

Another bar patron then attempted to start a fight with Roe and officers were called to the scene. Roe fled officers Pauley, Wilson and Crum, who had pointed their Tasers at him, according to the lawsuit.

Roe jumped into the Ohio River to avoid police. The lawsuit also alleges that while Roe was in the water, one of the officers fired his Taser at him, striking him.

The suit alleges further that police officers refused to help Roe or let his brother help him.

The man’s body was found in the water the next day.

The lawsuit sought $2 million for emotional distress and the loss of Roe.

Reached Tuesday afternoon, Chief Jim Carey expressed his sympathies towards Roe’s family.

“I didn’t know this young man but he seemed like a very talented young man and anytime that somebody that young loses their life, it’s tragic,” Carey said. “I can’t imagine what this family has had to go through.”

At the same time, the police chief defended his officers. They have suffered too, he said.

“I think both sides are still affected,” Carey said. “People still bring it up to ridicule the police department. That hurts us.”

Carey said the officers, all of whom are still employed with the police department, did nothing wrong. The officers did not use their Tasers on Roe while he was in or near the river, the chief said.

“The insurance provider and the family reached a concord, they handle that,” Carey said. “If this matter had been litigated we would have defended the officers and the department.”

Gustavson declined to comment on the amount of the settlement. Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship, who was not in office at the time of Roe’s death, declined to comment on the case or monetary amount of the settlement. The city’s attorney, Ken Harris, also did not comment, saying he would rather wait until the paperwork had been filed.