BRATTLEBORO -- The son of Brattleboro's former police chief will receive $110,000 from the state of Ohio after the Court of Claims there approved a settlement in a lawsuit that began nearly nine years ago with a traffic accident on Interstate 75.
"We had a long road," said Cary Cooper, of Marshall and Melhorn in Toledo, who represented Eugene Wrinn Jr. for nearly a decade. "It was a lot of hard work for most of those nine years."
Eugene Wrinn Sr. had been a police officer with the town of Brattleboro from 1987 until July of this year, when he retired as police chief.
Wrinn Jr., a graduate of Brattleboro Union High School, was in Ohio attending school, learning about auto mechanics when, on Sept. 16, 2005, he and two friends were driving along a rainswept highway. Wrinn lost control of his truck, spinning around and eventually facing into traffic with a stalled vehicle. Before he could restart the truck and get out of the way, a tractor-trailer hit the vehicle, pinning it against Jersey barriers running along the center of the road. Wrinn lost consciousness in the crash. After he regained consciousness, he left his vehicle, even though police officers told him to remain inside.
In court documents, Wrinn, who is now 27, contended he was disoriented by the crash and didn't understand orders issued to him by police officers to remain in his vehicle.
When he began to wander onto the highway, police struck him with a flashlight, stunned him with an electronic device and sprayed him with pepper spray.
In their responses to the lawsuit, officers claimed Wrinn was combative and acted in a menacing and threatening manner. One officer described him as having "super-human strength." Toxicology tests showed he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
A police recording of the incident documents cries of pain coming from Wrinn and comments made by police that included "you're a (expletive) idiot," "you're unbelievable" and "Taser the mother(expletive)."
"The circumstances here were shocking," said Cooper. "He went through a lot that night. It was pretty brutal."
Police officers were cleared of any wrongdoing and Wrinn was eventually cited with a motor vehicle infraction, but never charged with resisting arrest or any other crime.
Following the incident, Wrinn was in a coma for three days. Wrinn's lawsuit alleged he was hospitalized for five days with injuries including head trauma, running up more than $30,000 in medical bills. The lawsuit filed in the Court of Claims contended Wrinn received severe, debilitating, and permanent physical and mental injuries.
In a 2006 interview with The Lima Times, Eugene Wrinn Sr. contended the officers almost killed his son.
"I understand law enforcement. There is a time and place that you have to use force. There is a time and place that you have to use constraints. This is an accident victim that they almost killed."
Cooper told the Reformer the settlement that was announced on Tuesday was only one of many settlements reached in this case. Prior to the settlement with the state of Ohio, he said, settlements had been reached with the Lima, Ohio, Police Department, Allen County, the Ohio Highway Patrol and individual law enforcement officers.
Cooper could not reveal the monetary amounts of those settlements because they were covered by confidentiality agreements and he would not say whether he felt the settlements were adequate compensation for the injuries his client received.
"From a lawyer's point of view, there are a lot of factors that go into saying whether a settlement is adequate or not. But we thought this was a good thing to do considering all of the circumstances. This most recent settlement is indicative of the state taking some responsibility for what occurred."
Cooper said while Wrinn had a difficult year recovering from his injuries and the trauma of the incident, he has recovered "remarkably well" since then.
"He landed back on his feet, returned to school and got an accounting degree. He seems pretty well adjusted."
Cooper said Wrinn is now working as an accountant for General Electric, but would not disclose where he now lives.
Neither Eugene Wrinn Jr. nor his father were available for comment.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.