Burlington to pay $750K settlement in 2018 use-of-force case

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Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:10 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The city of Burlington will pay $750,000 to settle a use-of-force lawsuit against the Burlington Police over a 2018 incident.

Body camera video from the night of September 9, 2018, shows Burlington Police Sgt. Jason Bellavance shoving Jeremie Meli, causing him to hit his head against a wall. The lawsuit filed in 2019 states that Jeremie continues to suffer from the injury. His brothers, who were also on the scene, alleged excessive force and emotional distress.

The Burlington City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to allow Mayor Miro Weinberger to enter into the agreement.

“The Melis are longstanding and valued members of the Burlington community, and this incident was an important catalyst for change,” Mayor Weinberger said in a statement Friday, “The city is grateful to the Melis for their contributions to this progress and is committed to working with them on continued efforts to improve public safety and foster belonging in Burlington.”

The use-of-force incident was referenced often during 2020 protests in Burlington to de-fund the police and the occupation of Battery Park, where protesters demanded that Bellavance and other officers involved in separate use-of-force cases be fired. Bellavance ultimately left the department in 2020 when he agreed to a buyout deal with the city for $300,000.

Officials say $250,000 of the settlement will come from the city’s liability insurance reserve fund and the rest from the city’s insurance company.

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