The family of a mentally ill teen killed by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy has reached a $1.7 million settlement with the office, believed to be the largest wrongful death settlement in its history.
The settlement was reached two weeks before a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Camberdella was to go to trial and just more than four years since the October 2012 day when a deputy fatally shot the 18-year-old during a confrontation outside his home west of Boynton Beach.
His mother said Wednesday she would “trade every dollar, every dime” of the record settlement to have her son back.
“It’s been four long, agonizing years that we’ve been walking in this nightmare, fighting for our son’s justice,” Linda Camberdella said, clutching a photograph of her son, at a news conference at the office of her attorney, Sean C. Domnick. “We didn’t know if we had the strength to fight this battle to the end, but we found the strength and the courage to fight this battle for our son.”
Domnick said the settlement was the largest the sheriff’s office ever has paid out and that its size speaks to “the compelling facts of the case. One of the things that we’re happy about is the recognition that the sheriff’s office has given to the loss that the Camberdella family suffered.”
A sheriff’s spokeswoman said the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing. She declined further comment, saying the agency does not comment on legal settlements as a matter of policy.
The fatal shooting took place Oct. 4, 2012, during a confrontation in the front yard of the Camberdella family’s home in Verona Lakes, west of Lyons Road and south of Hypoluxo Road. Deputy William Goldstein fired 11 shots, one of which fatally wounded the teen.
According to investigators, deputies went to the house after receiving reports that Camberdella — whom his family said was bipolar and had stopped taking his medication — had become aggressive and was threatening his mother. Investigators said Camberdella initially was armed with hedge shears and a hammer, but dropped the items. However, he reached for what turned out to be lava landscaping rocks and began to throw them at the deputy.
The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office cleared Goldstein of criminal charges, ruling that, as the events were unfolding, there was no way for the deputy to determine whether Camberdella was throwing rocks or some other weapon. Sheriff’s investigators said Goldstein — who remains with the Sheriff’s Office — feared for his safety, but Camberdella’s family said the teen posed no threat.
In their lawsuit, the Camberdellas argued that Goldstein responded with excessive force. Linda Camberdella — who was joined at the news conference by her husband, Irving, and their daughter, Nichole — has said in the past that deputies had been able to help her calm Michael down in earlier situations.
In August, an appeals court rejected a motion by the Sheriff’s Office to dismiss the lawsuit, saying there was sufficient evidence to support the claim that Camberdella “was neither resisting nor fleeing and no longer posed a risk of harm to Deputy Goldstein or the public.”
Domnick said the Camberdellas’ award will not need the approval of the state Legislature, unlike other large settlements by government agencies in Florida. A federal statute on the deprivation of rights allows the claim, he said. Half of the payout will occur immediately and the rest at the beginning of next year.