Town of Spencer, police officer settle lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
SPENCER — Spencer Police Officer Hunter Shue has been ordered by the court to pay the medical bills of former fellow officer James Schmierer after Shue admitted shooting him in the leg with an Airsoft toy gun in March 2011.
The civil suit, which was filed May 27, 2011, in Rowan County, said the incident occurred March 2 while both officers were in uniform.
Schmierer said in the lawsuit, filed by attorney Seth Cohen of Smith, James, Rowlett & Cohen of Greensboro, that the police department took no action against Shue.
When the Post tried to reach Schmierer for comment at the Spencer Police Department, a town employee said he no longer worked for the department. Town Manager Larry Smith said he would provide details of Schmierer’s separation as required by state law, but he had not provided the records Wednesday evening.
Schmierer also initially sued the town, saying Spencer was negligent in hiring Shue and that the town was responsible for an employee’s actions performed within the course of his employment.
In January, the lawsuit against the town was dismissed, but it remained open against Shue.
The outcome, which was decided in mid-February by presiding Superior Court Judge Mark Klass, was filed earlier this month.
Klass said Shue’s actions constitute “extreme and outrageous conduct” and were intended to and did “cause severe emotional distress.”
The judge made a decision in the case after Shue had not responded to Schmierer’s amended complaints in the case by a certain time. In the default judgment, the judge ordered Shue to pay Schmierer’s medical expenses.
Schmierer was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, insomnia and nervousness and also incurred $1,900 in medical bills related to these issues, according to court files.
Schmierer said in his original complaint he was shot seven times from his ankle to mid-thigh. The initial complaint and subsequent court filings never indicated a motive for the shooting.
The suit said Schmierer was shot at close range with a gun that he said looked like a full-sized, black assault rifle with a folding stock and magazine.
Shue has denied the shooting was intentional.
The Spencer Police Department conducted an investigation of the incident and subsequently placed a letter of reprimand in Shue’s personnel file.
In responding to the suit, Shue denied that he only received a reprimand letter in his employee file but did not specify what other disciplinary action he received.
Cohen said his client is satisfied with the outcome.
Shue has paid $500 toward the court-ordered amount, the court filings show.
A representative from the office of Andrew Jennings, the attorney who represented Shue, said the firm is pleased with the outcome.
“We feel strongly that it was fair and just,” the spokesperson said.
In 2008, Schmierer accused the town of East Spencer, where he’d served as interim police chief, and four aldermen of racial discrimination. The town and Schmierer settled that suit.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.