See more of the story

The mother of a 29-year-old Black man shot dead by two St. Paul police officers in 2017 now stands to receive far less than the record $11.5 million that a federal jury awarded after a trial last year.

Senior U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled this month that the damages — what would have been the largest payout in the City of St. Paul's history — "does in fact shock the conscience given the limited facts" presented at trial.

A jury in August 2023 decided that the City of St. Paul should pay Kimberly Handy-Jones $10 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages for the shooting death of her son Cordale Quinn Handy. In a Feb. 8 ruling, Doty instead concluded that the most the jury could have awarded in the case was $2.5 million. Handy-Jones can agree to that new amount or proceed to a new trial focused on the compensatory damages.

Doty also granted a stay of execution on the judgment pending any decision on appeal.

"We appreciate the Court's response to our request," City Spokesman Kamal Baker said in a statement. "The City is reviewing the decision and will decide on the appropriate action in the coming weeks. It remains the largest payout for a police case in the City's history."

Messages were left seeking comment from the attorneys involved in this case.

St. Paul Police Officer Nathaniel Younce was found liable in Handy's death while officer Mikko Norman — who opened fire after Younce's initial shots — was not found liable. Both officers are white, and Handy was Black.

Handy-Jones told the Star Tribune last year that she planned to put some of the funds into a foundation created in her son's name to provide tombstones for families "who lost children through police brutality and community violence."

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Handy-Jones recounted the "six years of struggle" to get to a civil trial in the midst of grieving her son, whom she called "the glue that held my family together since the death of my husband."

"Judge Doty said that he trusted the collective wisdom of twelve citizens to find justice. Finally a jury of citizens that did not look like me found the officer who killed my son responsible and found $10 million in damages," the statement said. "No amount of money will ever replace my son, but it shocks my conscience that Judge Doty thinks that the life of a 29-year-old black man is only worth $2.5 million despite that jury finding otherwise. This ruling is killing my son's memory all over again."

At the time of the verdict St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter defended the officers, suggesting that the shooting was justified.

"My heartfelt condolences go out to Mr. Handy's family and friends for their devastating loss," the mayor said in the statement. "I am, at the same time, surprised by both the finding of liability and the magnitude of damages awarded by the jury in this case. Our officers responded to a chaotic and dangerous scene centered around a person who, by all accounts, was acting erratically and had already fired 16 shots before police arrived."

Doty's ruling sided with arguments supplied by attorneys for the city and Younce, who said that the $10 million compensatory damages award was "excessive, speculative, and unsupported by the evidence adduced at trial." Instead, they said, $1 million was more appropriate.

Doty wrote that although the jury did not specify the basis for its damages award, he suspected that it was largely guided by arguments from Handy-Jones' attorneys who suggested that she be awarded $4 million and that Handy's four siblings each receive $2 million.

The judge concluded that Handy did not financially provide for his mother or siblings, and that no evidence was submitted to align factors such as past earnings, future earning capacity, living expenses and the probability of paying off debts with criteria needed to support a specific compensatory judgment.

Other factors Doty weighed included no testimony about Handy's income or him sharing it with family. Doty cited the loss of Handy's ability to provide care and comfort to his loved ones as the most relevant criteria the jury was asked to measure. Attorneys offered evidence that Handy "was a loving and engaged member of the family, who took special care of his mother and siblings," Doty wrote.

"Of that the court has no doubt," the judge wrote. "Respectfully, however, the amount awarded is patently excessive. Given the meager evidence presented regarding quantifiable monetary loss, it appears that the jury was impermissibly swayed by plaintiff's understandable mental anguish and grief."

According to the allegations in the lawsuit, the officers were dispatched to Handy's apartment in the 700 block of E. 6th Street on March 15, 2017, after he called 911 claiming there was a person in his apartment trying to hurt or kill him.

Handy was experiencing hallucinations after taking what his mother's attorneys called "a bad dose of Ecstasy." He fired 16 shots from a handgun into a sofa, believing someone was hiding in the couch, according to court papers.

Handy's girlfriend told Younce and Norman upon their arrival that Handy was in crisis and had a gun, but that it was broken and not loaded, an attorney for Handy's mother argued.

The officers found Handy in the middle of the block on Sinnen Street between E. 6th and 7th streets. After they ordered him to the ground and told him to drop the gun, they said Handy dropped to the ground but then pointed his gun at Norman. First Younce and then Norman opened fire, killing Handy.

The officers fired eight shots, four each. Seven of the bullets hit Handy, according to Handy-Jones' complaint. Her attorneys contended he had dropped the gun when he went down and was not pointing it at the police. St. Paul police were not yet using body cameras, so there is no video of the incident.

Star Tribune staff writer Randy Furst contributed to this report.