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Family receives record-setting settlement for police-involved killing

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The family of a man fatally shot by a Waterloo police officer is receiving $2.5 million dollars from the city in a wrongful death lawsuit, according to law officials.

Under the settlement agreement, Derrick Ambrose Sr., a decorated U.S. Army sergeant major with service overseas, and his former wife, Toyia Ambrose, will receive the $2.5 million before attorneys' fees and court costs, in what is believe to be the largest city settlement of a police-shooting lawsuit in Iowa history.

According to law officials, Waterloo police officer Kyle Law shot Derrick Ambrose Jr. in the back of the head and back of the leg in November of 2012.

The officer chased him away from an alleged disturbance outside a night club.

According to testimony, before Ambrose Jr. was shot, he had dropped a handgun per the officer's command, which he had a permit to carry.

"18, November, 2012 was a significant day for me," said Derrick Ambrose Sr., talking to KWWL from New York.

Ambrose Sr. was in Oklahoma when he got the call his son was killed.

He says settling this civil suit was never about the money, rather a way to start a conversation about police and the community.

"One can make the masses look like it's all bad, and that's not the case at all. I'm not even pointing the finger at the person that is responsible for my son's death, I'm pointing to the leadership to say 'correct it,'" said Ambrose Sr.

A grand jury found officer Kyle Law used appropriate force in Ambrose Jr's case.

But one of Ambrose Sr's lawyers Tom Frerichs says the logistics don't add up.

"There was no [scientific evidence] used at all in the grand jury case," he said.

He maintains Ambrose Jr. never posed a threat to police, and the criminal case didn't dig deep enough, saying it wasn't possible Ambrose was encroaching on police, because he wasn't shot in the front.

"They said he fell to the ground and looked back like this, and they thought he had the gun, and they thought it was a threat." said Frerichs. "Again, it was in the back of the head."

No one will ever know what exactly happened that night except for Law and Ambrose Jr.

Frerichs and Ambrose Sr. are pleased with what's unfolded, but say it's a bittersweet win.

"I can tell you that Derrick Ambrose Sr. is committed to making sure it does make a difference. He wants to be part of that discourse so something positive happens out of this," said Frerichs. "No one is happy this case is settled, because it's a tragedy."

Thomas P. Frerichs of Frerichs Law Office P.C. of Waterloo and Mel C. Orchard, III and Noah Drew of The Spence Law Firm LLC, of Jackson Wyoming represent the Ambrose family.

KWWL reached out to Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka regarding this case in which he replied, "I want you to put yourself in the shoes of the officer in this situation." 

Frerichs responded to that comment by saying he doesn't envy the tough decisions police officers have to make, and thinks this case exposes that more police training needs to be done for these situations.

Quentin Hart also commented on the case, saying, "the loss of life in any situation is unfortunate and tragic, and I'm going to look into the particulars of this case to try to make sure it will not happen again in the future."

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