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City to pay $700,000 in 2006 CMPD shooting death

By Steve Harrison and Michael Gordon
sharrison@charlotteobserver.com

The city of Charlotte will pay $700,000 to the estate of Anthony Wayne Furr, a Stanly County man who was shot and killed in 2006 by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer while working on his job repairing a cellphone tower.

The City Council approved the settlement during a closed session Monday night.

John Buric, a family attorney, said the agreement was reached after Christmas.

“It was going to be a slug-fest, and we were ready to do it. But we ultimately decided ... it didn’t make sense to spend what we knew we would be spending on a trial, when we knew somebody would be going to make a trip to Raleigh to the Court of Appeals,” Buric said.

“It’s been seven years and six months since the shooting. It really was time to put closure to it.”

Furr, 41, was working on a tower off Albemarle Road around 1 a.m. on July 20, 2006, a time of the day least likely to disturb cellphone customers.

A bartender working nearby saw Furr’s AFL Network Services truck and called police about a suspicious vehicle.

Three police officers responded.

When an officer shouted at the repairman not to move, police said Furr – who was wearing a uniform – pulled a gun and did not obey commands to put the weapon down. One officer, Anthony Payne, fired three times. He said Furr was moving toward him with the gun in his hand.

Two of the bullets struck Furr in the chest. He died soon after. The gun was found outside the shed where Furr had been working. Investigators said they couldn’t tell how it got there – whether Furr had tossed it before the shooting or it had flown out of his hand after he was hit.

Attorneys for Furr’s sister argued that the repairman couldn’t have heard the police officers because of the loud air-conditioning units at the cellphone tower. They also said that Furr would have had trouble seeing because the area in which he was working was brightly lit, making it hard to see in the distance.

The complaint also alleged that Furr held a tool that officers mistook as a gun. In pretrial interviews, the family attorneys grilled officers on why they pulled their weapons when the company logo on Furr’s truck was clearly visible and the gate to the tower and had been unlocked and still held the key.

The city’s explanation

Officers said they were responding to a call in a high-crime area and did not know whether someone had broken into the tower.

“The shooting death of Wayne Furr in the early morning of July 20, 2006, was a tragedy for all those involved,” the city of Charlotte said in a statement Friday. “Wayne Furr was a loving father and valued member of his community. Officer Anthony Payne is an 18-year veteran of the CMPD who has an excellent record of service and numerous commendations.”

The city added that it is “clear” that Furr was at the cell tower doing his job. The city also said it believes Payne acted “appropriately.”

The statement also said that the city believes the $700,000 payment to Furr’s two children is “appropriate under the tragic circumstances of this case.”

The size of the settlement is similar to a 2009 agreement the city reached with the family of a teenager who died after being shocked with a Taser by a police officer in a Food Lion. The city agreed to pay the family of Darryl Turner $625,000.

Shortly after the announcement of the Furr settlement, Florida attorney Chris Chestnut told the Observer he will be filing suit for the family of Jonathon Ferrell, who was shot to death by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Sept. 14.

The officer, Randall Kerrick, faces manslaughter charges in the case.

Harrison: 704-358-5160 Gordon: 704-358-5095
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