The city of Mesa quietly paid $1 million earlier this year to the family of a man fatally shot by police in the La Sendas neighborhood in 2015, Phoenix New Times has learned.
As a condition of two settlement agreements, members of Ivan Krstic’s family agreed to drop a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. They originally sought $10 million.
Sanja Krstic, Ivan’s wife, received $600,000 after signing an agreement on February 23, city records obtained last month by New Times show. The money is intended for Krstic's two children. Krstic's mother, Nadezda Krstic, received $400,000. She signed her agreement in March. Their lawsuit was dismissed the same month.
As of August 22, the $1 million settlement represented the largest sum paid by the city for a single incident this year.
The previously unreported payments conclude the legal aftermath of a police shooting that received significant local media attention. The settlements were made in a year when the Mesa Police Department has come under increased scrutiny for its use of force, leading to two federal investigations of three incidents.
Mesa City Attorney Jim Smith and the Mesa Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Mesa police killed Krstic on the evening of December 3, 2015, as he carried a piece of rebar that he was reportedly using to inspect a residential roadway.
According to police reports, Officers Dustin Gransee and Daniel Glover responded to a call from two witnesses that Krstic was banging the bar on the ground while yelling that the road was paved incorrectly. At one point Krstic reportedly attempted to lift a manhole cover with the bar.
Body camera video taken from Gransee’s vantage point shows both officers walking toward Krstic and ordering him to drop the steel bar, which he carried in his left hand and pointed toward the ground. As the officers walk toward Krstic, one of them shines a light in his face. Gransee draws his handgun.
A witness who was walking his dog near the site of the shooting later said that he did not hear either officer identify themselves as law enforcement, according to lawyer Troy Hendrickson.
(WARNING: Video may be disturbing to some viewers.)
In the video, Krstic does not comply with orders to drop the bar. Glover fires a taser at him, causing him to fall backward toward the ground. Krstic brushes the taser wires away from his body using a pocket knife. One of the officers yells, "knife, knife, knife." Krstic gets back up as the officers order him to “stay down.”
That’s when Gransee fires two shots at Krstic.
He died from the wounds, leaving behind two children. According to a toxicology report, Krstic had alcohol in his system at the time of his death.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery declined to file charges against either of the officers involved in the shooting after his Shooting Review Board determined that they had committed no crime.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Arizona U.S. District Court, Krstic had been testing the roadway to prepare for a meeting with the neighborhood homeowners' association about water leaks. Neighbors said Krstic “did not appear to be coherent” at the time.
Krstic had a history of mental illness, according to his family. Police made contact with him at least nine times before the shooting. In 2012, he called 911 and threatened to shoot police and citizens attending an event at Las Sendas Elementary School. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of threatening and intimidating and three counts of disorderly conduct, records show.
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The FBI recently started reviewing a string of use-of-force incidents involving Mesa police officers for possible civil rights violations, the Arizona Republic reported.
One investigation concerns the beating of Robert Johnson, an unarmed 35-year-old black man, by five Mesa police officers in an apartment complex. Scottsdale Police investigated the incident, which was captured on video by surveillance cameras, and recommended against filing charges.
The FBI is also investigating the manner in which two officers arrested a 15-year-old who was suspected of armed robbery. Two officers can be seen on body camera video cursing at the teen, and one appears to grab his neck. Scottsdale Police also investigated this incident and found no wrongdoing.
The Bureau is also investigating the fatal shooting of Daniel Shaver, a Texas man who Mesa Police Officer Philip Brailsford shot in a hotel. Body camera footage of the incident went viral. Mesa Police fired Brailsford and Montgomery charged the officer with second-degree murder for the shooting. A jury acquitted him.