Settlement reached in lawsuit against Columbus State officer who killed campus visitor

The State of Georgia has agreed to pay $300,000 to the mother of a 20-year-old man who was shot and killed five years ago by a Columbus State University police officer.

Katonga Wright, the attorney representing Shaminique Flint, announced during a news conference Thursday that a settlement had been reached in the federal lawsuit filed against Benjamin Scott. He was the CSU police sergeant who twice shot Zikarious Flint in the back on March 30, 2014, while Zikarious was running away, Wright said.

After someone reported seeing a man loading a gun on campus, CSU police said Zikarious pointed a gun at them as they chased him through the college’s main campus off University Avenue, where he was visiting friends. They also reported that a gun was found with Zikarious after he was shot.

Wright said she isn’t at liberty to disclose the settlement amount, but a court document shows the figure.

“While there’s no amount of money that will bring back the life of a son, brother, grandson and beloved friend, a young man with no criminal record, accused of running from police, the only thing left for the family was a fight for the truth,” Wright said. “After a long fight for evidence and justice, we end the war today, so the family can move on with their lives, unfortunately with only the memories and thoughts of what could have been.”

Shaminique Flint, Zikarious’ mother, said, “It’s been mentally, physically and emotionally draining for my children and myself. I thought it was time for us to conclude this portion of our fight so that we can proceed obtaining other forms of justice for Zikarious’ murder.”

She said those forms are to be determined.

Other family members at the news conference were brother Amaru Perry, sister Kailah Flewellen, sister Amber Flint and niece Aubree Barnes.

The Ledger-Enquirer didn’t reach for comment before this story’s deadline Susan Teaster, the Georgia assistant attorney general who represented Scott in the civil lawsuit.

A Muscogee County grand jury recommended in 2015 that authorities pursue no criminal investigation. Rus Drew, who was CSU’s police chief at the time, said then that the decision confirmed what Scott’s supervisors already believed: His actions were justified under the circumstances.

Zikarious’ family refused to accept that explanation.

“At first I thought people didn’t care, but what I found is that there’s a disconnect,” Shaminique Flint said Thursday. “People never think that it would be their child. They would never think it would be their family, because I felt that way.....I definitely feel like greater accountability is needed. If you hold the power of life and death in your hand, there ought to be a greater accountable for you taking a life than what I see now.”

Zikarious’ parents, Shaminique and Homer Flint, now deceased, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court. They alleged Scott’s actions constituted excessive force in violation of their son’s Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment civil rights and that Scott violated clearly established law that made his conduct unconstitutional.

Scott appealed the District Court’s decision to allow a jury trial on those questions. The case was scheduled to be heard by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in September.

“While this case is not about an anti-police agenda,” Wright said, “our hope is that this case will set a precedent that officers should be held accountable when their actions exceed the bounds of the law.”

The case has received national attention, including from musical artist Beyonce, who “honored Zikarious’ legacy in her art,” Wright said.

Scott no longer works for CSU, said university spokesman Greg Hudgison. He said he doesn’t know where is employed. Wright said she understands that he works in law enforcement in the Atlanta area.

The shooting

CSU has given this account of Flint’s fatal shooting that Sunday:

At 2:35 p.m., someone reported seeing a man loading a gun in the gazebo just south of the main campus intramural field, near the Courtyard 1 student apartments. A CSU officer got there in 3 minutes.

The responding officer reported the suspect ran when approached. The chase from the gazebo went into the adjacent student housing complex, turned east to cross University Avenue, went around behind the CSU law enforcement Command College and the Baptist student ministry next door, came back across the avenue and went into the intramural field just north of the gazebo.

On the intramural field where some students were playing Ultimate Frisbee, the officer chasing Flint tried to Tase him, but the two Taser prongs failed to attach.

Scott, who that day had been assigned to work security at a basketball game in the university’s Lumpkin Center, joined the pursuit as Flint ran south into the Courtyard 1 complex. Carrying a pistol, Zikarious ignored officers’ orders to drop the weapon, they said.

Near Building A off University Avenue, Flint turned and raised his gun toward the two officers in pursuit. Scott fired two shots: One hit Flint in the neck and the other hit him in the back.

By Flint’s side, officers found a semi-automatic .40-caliber Glock Model 22 pistol holding eight rounds, they said. At 3:15 p.m., an ambulance took the critically wounded man to the Midtown Medical Center, where he died.

Flint, who was not a CSU student, had gone to the apartments to visit friends, his family said.

Staff writer Tim Chitwood contributed to this report.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.