Detroit Free Press (MI)
Date: November 1, 2000; Page: 5B
Edition: METRO FINAL; Section: NWS

A Wayne County jury awarded $6 million Tuesday to the family of a woman struck and killed by a Detroit police scout car in a 1998 accident.

"This was a killing of a citizen by a police officer and the police blamed the victim," said Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who represented the family.
If the verdict stands and is approved by the Detroit City Council, it will rank as one of the largest against the Police Department during the past three years, according to City Council records.

Mayoral spokesman Greg Bowens said the incident was "a tragedy" but should not be seen as an indictment of the entire Police Department. He said the verdict will be appealed.

The August 1998 accident occurred around 10:15 p.m. when Wanda Cottrell, 39, was walking across Jefferson, east of downtown, with her fiance. A scout car driven by Officer Fred Scott struck them.

Cottrell was in a coma for 25 days before she died.

Her fiance, James Braswell, survived. The city previously settled a suit with him. Terms of that settlement are secret.

At the time of the accident, Cottrell was working as an assistant librarian at the University of Detroit Mercy while completing work on a master's degree.

Scott filed a report after the accident saying the two pedestrians darted in front of his car and he couldn't stop, Fieger said. Scott said he was chasing a Cadillac for a traffic infraction, but Fieger said witnesses testified at trial that the scout car had no lights on -- not even headlights -- and that Scott staggered when he got out of the car and appeared to have been drinking.

The 2-week trial was before Wayne County Circuit Judge Louis Simmons. The jury took about two hours Tuesday to reach the verdict.

This electronic version may differ slightly from the printed article.