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Man awarded $1 in lawsuit against Rochester Police Department

A jury has awarded $1 to a man who accused Rochester police officers of using excessive force during his arrest.

It started six years ago when Benny Warr was involved in an altercation with three officers who were attempting to arrest Warr after they said he was shouting obscenities on Jefferson Avenue.

Cellphone and street camera footage showed Warr being pushed out of his wheelchair by two officers and kicked by another. Police said he was resisting arrest. Later that year, Warr filed suit against the officers, and former police chief James Sheppard.

On Monday, the jury decided the officers did harm Warr but should only pay him $1 in damages. In January, the judge in the case threw out Warr’s case against Sheppard.

Warr’s attorney, Charlie Burkwit, said the verdict was “inconsistent” and Warr should be granted a new trial.

“Our legal system is designed to compensate those who have been wrongfully injured,” Burkwit said. “Here you have a case where Mr. Warr clearly was injured and the system failed.”

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In a written statement, the city’s corporation counsel, Tim Curtin, said:

“I want to thank the men and women of the jury for their careful deliberation on this case. I also want to thank our legal team on behalf of Rochester’s residents. While the city agrees with this decision, I cannot comment further on this matter in the interest of protecting our taxpayers in the event of potential appeals. The mayor remains committed to a transparent police accountability process, which is why she introduced legislation for the creation of a Police Accountability Board with unprecedented investigative authority.”

Burkwit said he intends to fight the decision in the coming weeks.

“It’s my thoughts that it’s a totally inconsistent verdict and we will either move to set the verdict aside or take it on appeal.”

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.