Wrongful-death suit vs. officer settled for $500,000

Posted: January 25, 2011

A lawsuit against a Philadelphia police officer who shot and killed a woman in a North Philadelphia park more than three years ago was settled last week for $500,000.

About 1:30 a.m. Sept. 8, 2007, on-duty Officer Thomas Ohm shot and killed Reora Askew, 38, in Norris Square Park.

A police spokesman said at the time that officers were responding to a report of a woman - Askew - who allegedly was threatening passengers on a SEPTA bus with a butcher knife.

Ohm found Askew in the park, at Howard Street and Susquehanna Avenue. A police spokesman said at the time that she lunged at the officer with the knife before he shot her several times.

Attorneys for Askew's oldest son, Marcus, 21, who filed a wrongful-death suit against Ohm in Common Pleas Court, contended that Reora Askew had turned her back to Ohm, trying to run or walk away from him when he fired.

"It was unreasonable" for Ohm "to believe the use of deadly force was warranted, justified or reasonable at the time he fired his gun," the lawsuit said.

Askew, who also had two minor-age sons, was shot twice in the back, once in the arm, and twice in the chest.

The case went to trial in City Hall last week before a jury and Common Pleas Judge Patricia McInerney. After the plaintiff's side presented its case, a lawyer in the City Solicitor's Office, who was representing Ohm, decided to negotiate with the plaintiff's attorneys and settled the case on Thursday for $500,000.

Robert Levant, who represented Marcus Askew with attorneys Alan Tauber and Tariq El-Shabazz, said yesterday: "We believe that the jury and the city both saw that we had proven it that Ms. Askew was shot in the back as she turned to leave."

Marcus Askew said: "My mom was like my best friend and my mother. . . . I'm just glad we got some kind of justice from the courts."

He said his mother, who suffered from social-anxiety disorder, was jobless at the time and was on her way to her mother's house near Norris Square Park when she was killed.

Matthew Kevin Hubbard, a deputy city solicitor who represented Ohm at trial, said he could not speak with the media. His supervisor, Craig Straw, chief deputy city solicitor of the civil-rights unit, said that based on the evidence and witnesses presented to the jury by the plaintiff's side, and given that the trial was before a state-court jury, "we believed it was a good time for both parties to discuss a settlement."

He noted that a settlement is not an admission of liability on Ohm's part.

Straw said Ohm had been cleared by the District Attorney's Office, the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau and the department's Firearms Discharge Review Board as being "justified" in the shooting.

Ohm, who has been on the force for eight years, works in the 26th District, at Girard and Montgomery avenues.

That doesn't sit well with Marcus Askew. He said that he thinks Ohm "just got let off the hook" and that he still wonders why his mother was killed.

comments powered by Disqus