Lawsuit settlement finalized in pizza-shooting death

Posted: March 09, 2014

THE CITY has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of Lawrence Allen, a young father who was shot to death in 2008 by an off-duty police sergeant during a dispute over a stolen pizza.

The city will pay $650,000 to Allen's estate, administered by his parents. After expenses, about $304,840 will be used to purchase annuities for Allen's three minor children, according to a court document filed Thursday by the plaintiffs' attorney, David Rudovsky.

Rudovsky wrote in an email yesterday that neither he nor the family would comment on the settlement.

In his filing, he wrote: "Counsel are of the professional opinion that said settlement is reasonable and proper under the circumstances of the case, including the contested nature of the action, the difficulties in proving liability against the City of Philadelphia, and the needs of the three young children of the deceased."

Craig Straw, chief deputy city solicitor in the Law Department's civil-rights unit also would not comment yesterday.

On Nov. 17, 2008, then-Sgt. Chauncey Ellison and his girlfriend, then-Officer Robin Fortune, both off-duty and in street clothes, drove around in a vehicle with their children looking for a teen who had robbed Ellison's 14-year-old son of a pizza. They ended up on Renovo Street in West Oak Lane, where Allen lived.

They saw the robber, but Allen allegedly blocked their way. Witnesses at Ellison and Fortune's Common Pleas trial in November said Allen had tried to calm the situation and had offered to pay for the pizza.

Ellison testified that he shot Allen, 20, after Allen drew a gun. Other witnesses testified that Allen was unarmed.

Allen, shot in the back, became paralyzed and died of an infection three months later. He left behind a wife, two children and a baby born after his death.

Ellison and Fortune were convicted by a jury of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. The jury deadlocked on a felony charge of voluntary manslaughter against Ellison. It also deadlocked on a misdemeanor count of conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment against Fortune. The District Attorney's Office decided not to retry the former officers on the hung charges.

Ellison, 41, and Fortune, 45, were each sentenced in January to 11 1/2 to 23 months in jail, the maximum sentence allowed for the misdemeanor conviction. They began serving their sentences Feb. 21. A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Prisons System said the pair of ex-cops are in the county jail system's custody, but are being held in Lehigh County.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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