Boston to Pay $4.7 Million in Police Shooting of Terrence Coleman

Police Accountability, Racial Justice

City of Boston To Pay $4.7 Million To Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit Brought By Hope Coleman – Whose Son Terrence Was Killed By Boston Police In 2016

Young Black Man Living With Mental Illness Shot After His Mother Called 911 For Medical Assistance

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) and Fick & Marx LLP announced a $4.7 million settlement in the federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Boston for the fatal police shooting of Terrence Coleman, a young Black man living with a mental health condition, outside his home on October 30, 2016.

Before the nation witnessed the death of George Floyd, Terrence’s case amplified concerns surrounding police violence against Black residents in Boston, and the deep need for more training and policies to ensure better treatment of those living with mental health conditions.

For nearly eight years, Terrence’s mother, Hope Coleman, fought for justice for her son. From the night of her son’s fatal shooting, which occurred shortly after she called for an ambulance to transport him to the hospital for medical attention, she has been a stalwart advocate for those who have experienced the pain of losing children and loved ones to police violence.

“No mother should have to witness her child killed at the hands of police and fight, the way that I have had to fight now for so many years, to gain accountability,” said Hope Coleman. “Nothing can bring Terrence back, but today at least some measure of justice has been done.”

“It is shameful that the City of Boston fought a grieving mother tooth-and-nail for so long,” said Sophia Hall, Deputy Litigation Director at Lawyers for Civil Rights. Attorney Hall noted that the federal judge overseeing the case sanctioned the City for its litigation conduct multiple times. “Today, the City has finally stepped up, and this settlement will help bring closure for Ms. Coleman and her family after this years-long legal battle.”

“It was a great privilege to represent Hope Coleman, who has shown tremendous strength and courage throughout this terrible ordeal,” said Attorney Daniel Marx. “We are pleased she will finally obtain some measure of justice for Terrence and hope this settlement helps her to move forward with her life.”

“This lawsuit uncovered grave deficiencies in the readiness of Boston Police and EMS to serve persons in mental health crisis,” said Attorney William Fick. “More than a decade after a BPD rule designed to de-escalate encounters with emotionally disturbed persons was first proposed, and more than 7 years after Terrence was killed, BPD and BEMS remain woefully unprepared to handle such situations safely.”

Terrence’s death has spurred some long-needed efforts to reform the City’s way of handling emergency calls. In 2020, several Boston City councilors, including then-City Councilor Michelle Wu, filed an ordinance to develop a crisis response system that would divert nonviolent 911 calls away from police. Yet, no such city resource exists today.

Attorney Hall noted that much more reform is still needed. Tragically, the Massachusetts rate of fatal police encounters involving people living with mental health conditions has only risen since Terrence’s death. “Police departments throughout the country must reform the way they handle 911 calls and divert medical calls away from police. Otherwise, we will continue to see more tragedies like the death of Terrence Coleman. Hopefully, today’s settlement will lead to more much-needed reforms, in Boston and beyond,” said Attorney Hall.