Attorney: City to pay $2.3M to settle Heenan shooting case

Attorney: City to pay $2.3M to settle Heenan shooting case
Victim's family seeks legal counsel

The city of Madison has agreed to pay $2.3 million in a settlement with the family of Paul Heenan who was shot and killed by Madison police Officer Stephen Heimsness in 2012.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by an attorney representing the Heenan estate.

Heenan was shot and killed by Heimsness on Nov. 9, 2012, when Heenan reportedly came home from a night of drinking and entered his neighbor’s house by accident.

A release from the Heenan estate attorney said a judge ruled in June that “a reasonable jury could find that Heimsness’s choice to shoot Heenan amounted to excessive force and could also find that the city was liable for not having an effective system for handling civilian complaints of excessive force, for not acting on patterns of complaints against individual officers, and for not monitoring its own computer system for inappropriate messages sent by an officer which indicated the officer was unfit for duty.”

The release states that the $2.3 million settlement is believed to be the largest for a fatal police shooting in state history. The attorneys said the settlement is against Heimsness and the city, but Heimsness’ liability was covered by the city’s insurance, meaning that the money will come entirely from the city’s insurance company.

The attorneys said Heenan’s parents hope the settlement will become part of a national conversation about police and community relations . They said the family might use the settlement money to promote changes in police and community relations.

Deputy City Attorney Patricia Lauten said Heimsness followed protocol but the city was concerned the lawsuit could drag on for years and become more expensive.

Lauten confirmed a settlement has been reached in principle but declined to comment further until all parties have signed the agreement. She expects the settlement to be signed by the end of the week.