Jury awards $11.5M after finding St. Paul officer civilly liable for 2017 death of Cordale Handy

A federal jury has awarded the family of Cordale Handy $11.5 million after finding a St. Paul police officer used unreasonable force in his death in March 2017.

The jury reached a verdict Monday that ruled Officer Nathaniel Younce was liable for using unreasonable force when shooting at Handy, a Black man, who attorneys say was laying on the ground with his hands up. Younce’s partner, Officer Mikko Norman, was not found liable.

On Tuesday, the jury determined Handy’s mother, Kim Handy-Jones, should be awarded $10 million in compensation and another $1.5 million in punitive damages.

“I knew this day would come,” Handy-Jones said following the verdict on Monday. “It doesn’t bring back my baby, but hopefully this will open up doors for other mothers who look like me, who suffered the same loss as me.”

In a statement Tuesday, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said he was “surprised by both the finding of liability and the magnitude of damages awarded by the jury in this case,” adding that the officers were met with a “chaotic and dangerous scene.”

“I have always spoken clearly about the high standard to which I hold our police officers,” Carter wrote. “In reviewing the details of this case, I simply cannot conclude that those involved had other reasonable options to immediately resolve this escalating crisis and prevent further loss of life without force.”

A spokesperson for Carter’s office says the city is reviewing the verdict and considering post-trial motions and an appeal. Carter’s office says the verdict reached Tuesday is the largest awarded in city history, adding that since the city is self-insured for tort liability, any payments for that will come directly from the general fund.

On March 15, 2017, Younce and Norman responded to a report of a domestic incident involving numerous shots being fired at a Dayton’s Bluff apartment.

During a 911 call from one of the women at the apartment building, dispatch was told Handy had a gun that was not loaded, according to a report from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Another woman told Younce the gun was not loaded, according to the report.

Surveillance footage showed officers finding Handy holding a gun near the intersection of Sinnen and East 7th streets, according to the BCA. Both officers told the BCA they ordered Handy to the ground, and he pointed the gun at them twice, prompting them to shoot Handy a combined seven times.

Handy died at the scene.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi declined to file any criminal charges at the time of the shooting, saying the use of deadly force was justified. Choi at the time said even though officers were told that Handy’s gun may have been unloaded that “it would be unreasonable for anyone to expect and incredibly dangerous for the officers to presume that was true under these facts and circumstances.”