The settlement was reached in July and finalized last month before U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield in Beaumont.
The 28-year-old Whitehead died in the parking lot of O'Reilly's Auto Parts on 16th Street in the afternoon of July 26, 2010. Through police reports and testimony in an employment hearing, witnesses said Whitehead was inside the store cursing and arguing with a clerk as he tried to return an auto part. Captain Robert Arnold was off-duty and a customer in the store with his 13-year-old daughter. Arnold tried to intervene and calm Whitehead down. Whitehead then used racial slurs toward Arnold, who is black. The two went into the parking lot and argued. Arnold ended up shooting Whitehead. Arnold claimed self-defense while Whitehead’s friends and family claimed he was unarmed and trying to leave in his pickup truck.
Beaumont lawyer Frank Calvert, who represented the city along with City Attorney Jack Cash Smith, said the city's payment will come from the risk pool the city has through the Texas Municipal League. Calvert said under the settlement, Whitehead’s young daughter, Heaven Leigh, will received $366,000 in a structured settlement-style trust. Whitehead’s mother, Diana, will receive $91,500, and his father, Vernon, will get $91,500. Whitehead’s common-law wife Karlan Jorgensen will get $61,000.
Smith said in a written statement “It was a fair settlement taking into account Robert Arnold’s incredibly bad judgment when he shot and killed an unarmed man who was no threat to him.”
Arnold has a lawsuit against the city alleging the city used racial discrimination when firing him for violating police policies in connection with the shooting. An Orange County grand jury reviewed the case and did not indict Arnold on any criminal charges.
Arnold also filed a civil service complaint to try to get his job back. A long hearing was held before a mediator in April and May of 2011. The mediator later ruled the city should give Arnold his job back. The city appealed the ruling. That dispute is still pending and is expected to be held before a Houston mediator in November.