SCHENECTADY — The city has reached a $1.5 million settlement with Chrystal Scism, the widow of a man shot and killed by a city police detective in 2016.
Joshua Scism, 33, was shot and killed by Detective Brett Ferris on June 13, 2016 after Scism approached a minivan containing three undercover police officers and a confidential informant on First Avenue.
After a verbal exchange between Scism and the officers, Scism turned to leave and the officers observed a gun in the waistband of his pants.
Ferris pulled his own weapon and got out of the van, yelling at Scism to get on the ground. Ferris then fired six shots over the course of 1.7 seconds, with the fatal shot hitting Scism in the back of the head.
Ferris did not identify himself as a police officer before firing the shots.
A civil trial in August in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York in Albany was declared a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked 4-4 on the question of whether Ferris’ use of lethal force was justified.
Chrystal Scism filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 alleging that her husband’s death was the result of excessive lethal force by the detective.
During the summer trial, Scism’s attorney, Andrew Finkelstein, asked the jury to award between $10 million and $15 million to the plaintiff.
Following the mistrial, Finkelstein and Clifton Park attorney Gregg Johnson, who represented Ferris in the summer civil trial, said they would be willing to hold a second trial in the case.
“On a personal level, I would have loved to have gone forward with another trial,” Finkelstein said on Monday. “The jurors agreed that Ferris violated my client’s [Joshua Scism] civil rights, but it had to be unanimous and it wasn’t a unanimous jury. So I was secure that another jury would’ve likely found in a unanimous way that my client was killed without justification. But the municipality, having seen what happened in the first trial was not nearly as confident as they once were, and they substantially increased their offer to a point where my client felt it was in the best interest of her family and the community to resolve it and not put everyone through that again and have some closure to this matter.”
Johnson declined comment on the settlement when reached on Monday.
There is no admission of fault included in the settlement, which was brokered by U.S. Magistrate Christian F. Hummel in October.
“The settlement of this case is reflective of a business decision made by our insurance company and is in no way reflective of the job done by police officers on that day,” Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said in a release. “I stand behind Detective Ferris and the difficult decision he made on that day. Illegal handguns remain a problem in our community, statewide and nationwide. Schenectady police officers work diligently every day to rid them from our community.”
The Schenectady City Council must approve the settlement. It could appear before the full council as soon as the board’s next meeting on Dec. 12.
City Corporation Counsel Andrew Koldin did not return a request for comment.
While the city was not a defendant in the federal trial, the municipality’s insurance provider will pay out the settlement.
“From my client’s [Chrystal Scism] perspective, it’s good that it’s resolved, but there’s nothing to celebrate,” Finkelstein said. “She would much rather have her husband back.”