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Settlement ends FCSO shooting lawsuit
Man, 67, was struck by beanbag round in 2007
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Forsyth County News

A Forsyth County man will receive $100,000 as a settlement in his case against a former sheriff’s deputy who shot him with a beanbag round.

County commissioners last week approved the agreement, which will conclude the civil suit stemming from the August 2007 incident.

The settlement includes a $100,000 payment to Joseph Lamar Knight and his attorney’s office from Association County Commissioners Georgia, which insures Forsyth, and nearly $6,400 from the county to pay a Medicare lien for related medical expenses.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard explained to commissioners that state law allows the county to supplement insurance payments if deemed appropriate to settle a suit.

“I am telling you, I think this case should be resolved,” Jarrard said. “It is a reasonable settlement based upon the facts and the upcoming jury trial.”

The standoff at the Knight’s home came to a head when former Sheriff’s Sgt. Ben Finley shot Knight in the chest from about 3 feet away with a beanbag round, considered "less lethal" ammunition, according to a decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Appeals Court ruled in July that Knight had a case against Finley, but not the other two deputies included in the July 2009 complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Deputies responded to the home on Aug. 12, 2007, after Knight's wife called 911 with a concern that her 67-year-old husband may have overdosed on medication, as stated in a transcript of the call in court documents.

Knight, who was reportedly intoxicated at the time, barricaded himself in a bedroom of the home when deputies arrived, according to the county's statement of material facts, and he was shot with the beanbag when he opened the door.

Knight suffered injuries from the incident, after which he was admitted to the hospital in critical condition and released nine days later.

In his complaint, Knight contended that his wife had told all the deputies that he did not have access to loaded weapons in the home.

The county stated that Knight threatened deputies with lethal force if they opened the door, and so "Finley believed it was necessary to deploy a less-lethal beanbag munition against [Knight] in order to resolve the situation without the threat of lethal force being realized," according to his deposition.

Finley left the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office in March 2008, and currently works for another law enforcement agency.

The settlement, dated Dec. 6, releases any future claims and notes that it “is not an admission of liability” by the county, but rather “for the purpose of avoiding future litigation.”