On the afternoon of March 13, 2011, Carmelo Winans, an emotionally troubled young man, sat on the floor in an isolated corner of the kitchen of the house he shared with his father and grandparents. Paranoid and confused, he held a small steak knife to his neck as he spoke about god. He was not threatening anyone and he was not engaging in any aggressive actions. His father, Carmelo Santiago, fearing his son might harm himself, phoned the police to come help his child. Two Philadelphia Police officers came to the house and entered the kitchen. The frightened father stood in the kitchen doorway, behind the police, watching first in relief, then in increasing horror, as the events unfolded.
As the officers spoke to Winans, he finally put the knife down on the floor. At that moment a specially trained Crisis Intervention officer, armed with a Taser, arrived on the scene. As this trained back-up officer entered the kitchen, one of the officers already in the kitchen, threw himself on the seated young man, while holding his gun in his hand. The gun went off. Mistakenly believing he was shot, the officer called out to his partner, who then fired two fatal shots at Winans.
Because of our experience with about a dozen police shooting cases, including two prior fatal police shootings of emotionally disturbed persons, Popper & Yatvin was contacted by the family to bring suit. The case was filed in two parts: on behalf of the father in state court in Philadelphia, and on behalf of the estate and Mr. Winans’ young children in federal court. After more than two years of litigation, the cases were settled for more than $400,000.