FARGO — A Fargo man who was blinded in one eye after being shot with pepper balls by police during a 2019 confrontation has settled his federal lawsuit with the city.
U.S. District of North Dakota Judge Peter Welte approved on Monday, Oct. 4, a request by Tyler Alexander Patel, 29, and the city of Fargo to dismiss Patel’s civil rights suit. Patel will be paid $75,000, according to a settlement agreement obtained by The Forum from the city through an open records request.
The money Patel will receive will come from the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund. Political subdivisions use taxpayer money to pay dues to the fund, which is then used to defend against lawsuits.
The defendants do not admit fault, the settlement said.
Patel filed the lawsuit against the City of Fargo and Police Officers Jon Novacek and Travis Moser on Oct. 2, 2020, a year after the Fargo Police Department responded to the Dacotah Foundation Alternative Care Services building at 1322 Gateway Drive. Officers went to the housing facility for adults with mental illness after receiving a report that a man, later identified as Patel, cut himself and was possibly suicidal, according to court documents.
Police claimed Patel told officers he had a gun and yelled at them to shoot him. Patel went in and out of the building as officers posted outside in an attempt to get him to surrender peacefully.
Patel eventually came out with his hands up but dropped his hands to his side, court documents said. He didn’t comply with orders, so Moser said, “Give it to him, Jon,” according to a police report.
Novacek fired several pepper balls at Patel, including one in the face. Patel was then taken into custody.
Police did not find a gun on Patel.
Patel said in his lawsuit that he did not threaten police and that he was experiencing a mental health crisis. In accusing officers of using excessive force, he claimed the injury to his eye was unjustly caused.
Police denied any wrongdoing. An internal investigation found the use of pepper balls was “reasonable, necessary and within policy.”
Patel was sentenced to 18 months of probation in August 2020 after he pleaded guilty to preventing discharge of duties.
Other than acknowledging The Forum's open records request and the Insurance Reserve Fund's involvement in the case, the city declined to comment on the case. Patel's attorney, Joshua Newville of Minneapolis, did not respond to a voicemail left by The Forum.