The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a 39-year-old mentally ill Royal Palm Beach man who was shot by an off-duty deputy when he wandered into the officer’s garage.
A homeowner’s insurance company for Deputy Joshua McGehee agreed to pay another $300,000 to Aldo Alvarez, who survived the May 2013 shooting, said Stuart Kaplan, who represents the Alvarez family in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The settlement came as Kaplan pressed the agency to release records that he claimed would show McGehee was unfit to work as a law enforcement officer.
In court papers, Kaplan claimed that McGehee suffered from Tourette’s syndrome or some other “psychological and/or neurological disorder,” but was hired because his mother is Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s administrative assistant.
Routine psychological tests were waived because of McGehee’s connection to Bradshaw, Kaplan claimed in court papers.
Lawyers for the sheriff’s office weren’t immediately available for comment.
Alvarez’s parents hope to use the money to get their son vocational training so he may one day live independently, Kaplan said.
Charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and burglary with assault or battery after he was shot six times by McGehee, Alvarez was declared incompetent to stand trial. While no longer on house arrest, he can’t leave his house without his mother and father, according to terms set by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Joseph Marx.
At a minimum, Kaplan said he is hoping to relax that restriction. He said he will also try to persuade state prosecutors to drop the charges in light of the settlement of the civil lawsuit. The prosecution is on hold until psychologists agree Alvarez is capable of understanding the charges he faces.
McGehee, who lived across the street from Alvarez and his parents, claimed he was forced to shoot. Alvarez, he claimed, entered his garage, cornered him and ignored his repeated orders to leave. State Attorney Dave Aronberg found the shooting justified.
But, Kaplan argued in court papers, the evidence disputes McGehee’s account. The bullets were fired toward the house, he said. Alvarez, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after graduating from high school, was just trying to welcome a new neighbor, he said.
Editor’s Note: Because of incomplete information provided by attorney Stuart Kaplan an earlier version of this story said the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was paying the full $600,000 settlement.