Posted on Dec 08, 2005
How a stray bullet cost Onondaga County $1M
County pays its part of $3 million to man who was hit by probation officer's shot
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
By Greg Munno
The Syracuse man critically hurt when he was accidentally shot by a probation officer will receive $3 million for his injuries.
The county Legislature Tuesday unanimously approved the settlement, about $2 million of which will be paid for by the county’s insurance provider. The rest comes from taxpayers.
Michael Chapman — who was shot in the chest in July 2002 when the probation officer living in the apartment above him accidentally fired her .40-caliber Glock handgun while unloading it — said he was glad the case is behind him.
"But I am not happy. I am going to be disabled for the rest of my life — the price of cooking a hamburger, I guess," said Chapman, who was making the burger when the stray bullet struck him. "It’s hard. I was friends with her (the probation officer). When something like this happens, it is bad for everyone involved."
Chapman declined to describe his disability.
The officer, Stacey Nunn, was renting her apartment from Chapman at 1901 James St., Chapman said.
Nunn was originally put on leave from work, but has since returned, according to Stephen Helmer, a lawyer with the Mackenzie Hughes law firm who represented the county.
The case also changed county rules for probation officers, who had been required to carry a gun home with them and then unload it. They now can opt not to carry a gun, and, if they do, can store it at home loaded or unloaded. Either way, the gun must be locked.
Nunn’s bullet broke Chapman’s upper left rib, perforated his diaphragm, collapsed his left lung, bruised the sac around his heart and punctured his pancreas, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, according to the lawsuit brought against the county.
"It hit every major organ in my body," Chapman said.
Helmer said Chapman’s lawyer presented a strong argument that Chapman would still need more surgeries to repair the damage from the shooting that’s now more than three years old.
The lawyer, Ralph Fusco, of Utica, estimated that Chapman had already compiled more than $100,000 in medical bills and that the shooting would end up costing Chapman $3.2million in medical bills and lost wages, Helmer said. The rest of the $10million Fusco asked for would have been for pain and suffering.
Fusco could not be reached for comment.
Helmer said the county was able to lower the cost of the settlement by arguing that Chapman, a factory worker who was already out of work with a back injury, may not have been able to return to work anyway.
"That would have been an issue if we went to trial," Helmer said. "The settlement is fair to all parties. This was just a terribly unfortunate and extremely unusual case. The chances that the one person in the apartment below would have been hit must have been astronomical."