Man shot by cop awarded $1.15 million

April 1, 1999
Man shot by cop awarded $1.15 million
Criminal charges against the 12th Precinct officer and the Annadale man he wounded in a 1987 confrontation were dismissed.
Dean Balsamini, Advance Supreme Court Bureau

Already under fire, the New York City Police Department took another hit yesterday when a civil jury awarded $1.15 million to an Annandale man who was shot by an off-duty cop following a 1987 traffic altercation.

The jury awarded the monetary damages to 37-year-old Dennis Carlin, who was shot in the midsection during a dispute in Arden Heights Oct. 16, 1987.

"He feels vindicated," said Carlin's lawyer, John Bosco, a partner in the law firm of Bosco, Bisignano, Mascolo. "The Staten Island juries have again proved the people of Staten Island can get justice."

A civil jury in the weeklong trial before Judge Alan Lebowitz deliberated for parts of two days. Carlin cheated death nearly 12 years ago, after he and his younger brother, Larry, got into an altercation with now retired Police Officer Robert Prather, a decorated cop who authorities said shot the man in self defense.

According to Advance files, the bullet passed through Carlin's midsection just below the sternum. The shot did not hit any vital organs and exited through the man's back.

Carlin was taken to the former Staten Island Hospital in critical condition.

Both Carlin brothers were arrested in the traffic dispute.

A Staten Island grand jury voted to charge the pair with misdemeanors. Dennis Carlin, then 26, was charged with menacing while Larry, 23, was charged with assaulting the cop. The same grand jury voted a "no bill" in regard to the officer, dismissing charges against him in connection with the incident.

The criminal charges against the Carlin brothers were ultimately dismissed, Bosco said.

According to police accounts, Prather ended his shift in the 120th Precinct at 11:50 p.m. Oct. 15 and was on his way home when the conflict began on Arden Avenue at Arthur Kill Road about 30 minutes later.

The Carlin brothers, each driving a different car, had stopped side by side and were holding a conversation at the intersection when Prather pulled up behind them.

After the traffic light turned green, and the brothers - cops said - showed no signs of budging, Prather maneuvered around their cars.

Investigators alleged that one of the brothers got behind Prather, while the other raced ahead in front of the officer "boxing him in." Police officials said the cars "cut Prather to the curb" on Arden Avenue near Forest Green a short distance later.

Police said Prather got out of his car and identified himself as a police officer to the brothers, another man, and three women who climbed out of the two cars.

Authorities said an argument erupted and the Carlin brothers began closing in on Prather.

Police alleged the off-duty officer kept backing up and then fired three warning shots in the air. Authorities claimed Dennis Carlin began grappling with Prather in an apparent effort to get the officer's gun when the weapon fired.

Prather, who was taken to Bayley Seton Hospital for observation, complained of an injured wrist and chest pain. Police charged the brothers both punched Prather. The officer at the time had almost had served in the Island's Emergency Services Unit.

Investigators said results from their preliminary investigation indicated Prather acted within Police Department guidelines and was justified in the way he handled the incident.

According to Advance files, there were unsubstantiated reports at the time that the Carlin brothers, who are white, allegedly made racial slurs at the officer, who is black.

However, police said the dispute was not a racial incident.

The Carlin brothers subsequently filed a $5 million notice of claim with the city, claiming they were falsely arrested and Dennis Carlin, who was hospitalized for 31 days, was assaulted and injured.

Bosco said the award sends a message that "You shouldn't shoot unarmed people….He [Prather] used excessive force."

David Godosky tried the case for Bosco, Bisginano, Mascolo.