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Appeals over in shooting; $750K judgment awarded

The estate of Randolph Neal Seamster Jr. is set to receive a judgment of $750,000 as the result of a civil suit in which a Halifax County jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages stemming from a shooting incident at Sheetz in Riverdale on July 2, 2008.

The insurance carrier for the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for the payment.

The estate of Seamster filed a $5.35 million wrongful death lawsuit in Halifax County Circuit Court alleging that Halifax County Sheriff’s Investigator Thomas Lewis acted negligently and committed assault and battery when he fatally shot Seamster, a Pelham, N.C. resident.

A jury of six women and one man returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on March 15, after a civil trial lasting three days.

At a May 31 hearing, presiding Judge David Melesco denied a motion by the attorney for Lewis to set aside the jury’s verdict and enter a judgment for Lewis, or to order a new trial and to set aside the punitive damages award for the estate of Seamster, who was shot and killed by Lewis in the Sheetz parking lot.

Melesco denied defense attorney Carlene Booth Johnson’s motion in all parts except as to a reduction in the punitive damages award.

According to court documents, the jury award of $1 million exceeds the $350,000 limitation on punitive damages under Virginia law.

An order entered on Thursday awarded the plaintiff $400,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages for a total of $750,000, to be allocated among members of the Seamster estate.

Johnson objected to Judge Melesco’s denial of her motion for “reasons stated on the record.”

Johnson had 30 days from the date of Judge Melesco’s order to appeal the case to a higher court, but no appeal has been filed, according to Halifax County Circuit Court records.

Angela Meredith, acting as administrator for the estate of the victim in the shooting, Randolph Neal Seamster Jr., had filed the suit Nov. 19, 2009 against Lewis, a member of the Halifax County drug task force who fired the shot that killed Seamster in the Sheetz parking lot.