The Chief
February 13, 2004

Million-Dollar Award

Court Rules Cop’s Shooter Must Pay

By Mark Daly

A Police Officer who filed a civil lawsuit against the small-time criminal who allegedly shot him has received a $1 million judgment from a Queens Supreme Court judge.

Justice Patricia P. Satterfield Feb. 2 ordered the man suspected in the shooting, William Hodges, to pay the amount in damages to Detective David Gonzalez, who was permanently wounded in the Nov. 12, 1999 incident.

Shot During Struggle

Mr. Gonzalez, a parole officer at the time, was shot in the hip by his own service revolver as he and Mr. Hodges struggled in the vestibule of a Queens apartment building. The officer now walks with a limp and has recurrent pain from the bullet fragments still lodged in his body.

Mr. Hodges, described by police as a small-time crack dealer, was jailed and charged with grabbing the revolver from the officer’s holster. But another Queens judge, Laura Blackburne, dismissed the case less than three years later after ruling he’d been denied a speedy trial.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is appealing that decision, and backed Mr. Gonzalez in his civil suit. “This thug shot and tried to kill a police officer and the courts let him out on a technicality,” said Patrick J. Lynch, the union’s president. “The PBA will use every legal means at our disposal to make him pay for the damage he’s done.”

Justice Satterfield approved a default judgment for Mr. Gonzalez last October after Mr. Hodges failed to respond to the lawsuit, which had been filed in March.

Term of Award

The judge last week awarded Mr. Gonzalez $250,000 for past pain and suffering and $750,000 for future pain and suffering, based on testimony from the officer and his orthopedic surgeon. Mr. Gonzalez had sought $2.5 million in damages, including a $50,000 annual payment for the next 50 years.

Mr. Hodges appeared in a different courtroom in Queens Feb. 5 to be formally charged with biting the leg of Police Officer Benedict Vitale in Jamaica Hospital’s emergency room in July. According to the Queens District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Hodges and his mother got into an altercation with police because they felt they had waited too long for medical treatment.

Mr. Hodges, 32, is out on $100,000 bail, but Mr. Gonzalez’s attorney, Greg Longworth, will seek a restraining order to prevent the return of any cash portion of that amount.

‘We’re Not Going Away’

“We’re looking to get access to any bank account he may have, and to begin garnishing his salary if he’s employed,” Mr. Longworth said. “He’s going to have to deal with us for a long time to come.”

Last week’s ruling marked the second recent civil victory for an NYPD officer. In August, Police Officer Liza Paredes received a $3.4 million judgment against Brian Frisbie, an ex-con, for knee and internal injuries she suffered in 1994 when she responded to a domestic violence call and Mr. Frisbie tackled her down a flight of stairs. Mr. Frisbie was convicted of assault and resisting arrest and sentenced to five year’s probation for the incident.