TAMPA, Fla. — The family of Arthur Green Jr. has reached a settlement agreement with the City of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department over Green’s 2014 death, which raised questions about excessive force, particularly against those in the Black community.
“We feel the same way now that we felt in 2014 when this tragedy happened to our father,” said Kurt Young. “It hasn't gotten any better. Still painful. Still wrong. The wound hasn't been healed. But we have gotten to a point now in this journey that it was practical to arrive at an agreement with the city regarding settling the case.”
Documents show Green was driving in Tampa at a slow speed when he had a diabetic medical emergency that caused him to struggle with control behind the wheel. A nearby motorist called 911.
However, his family says when police got to the scene, he did not immediately get the help he needed. Instead, he was handcuffed and put in the prone position and struggled to breathe.
“They pull him out, lay him on the ground, pull his arms behind him, put handcuffs on him,” said Green’s widow, Lena Young Green. “The other officer went to the truck, got the leg restraint, put that on him. My husband's dying and they're telling him to stop resisting and all he wanted to do was to live and when he stopped resisting, he was dead.”
Kurt says Green was never a threat to police.
“He was then and he's always been a person a citizen in need of help. He needed help. And as public servants the officers who encountered him should have helped him,” Kurt said.
The legal fight for Green’s family has been long and difficult, Young says. A federal civil rights lawsuit was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, but it was denied based on grounds of qualified immunity, which protects government workers against lawsuits alleging wrongdoing.
More than eight years after Green’s death, the City of Tampa has agreed to pay a settlement in the case. Additionally, the Tampa Police Department has agreed to make changes to its standard operating procedures related to how police handle cases where people are held in the prone position.
The changes to policy state that when officers use their body weight to control someone who is resisting, they cannot use their weight to interfere with a person’s breathing. Officers are also instructed to stop applying their weight once the subject is restrained. Additionally, once a subject is handcuffed, officers should turn the person on their side or allow them to sit up as long as they no longer pose a risk.
“If we could change policy…we know that that would affect our community deeply,” Lena said. “We lost my husband, but here are the results that are improving our communities.”
Kurt says the family asked for a number of conditions to be met as part of the settlement. While the city made a financial settlement and TPD made policy changes, Kurt says there was one thing they never got.
“It was just a human thing to do. And [Mayor Castor] refused to do so,” said Kurt. “And so that's a disappointment for us and certainly continues to be a hard part of this whole experience.”
A spokesperson for the City of Tampa said for the moment there is no comment on this statement or any part of the case. A Tampa Police Department spokesperson acknowledged a Friday request for comment but had no immediate statement on the matter.
Lena and her son say this settlement and policy change is just one part of their fight for justice.
“We’re going to continue to fight to make sure that something like this never ever happens again,” said Kurt. “Certainly not in our community.”