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$2 million settlement reached in ’69 race killing

The children and sisters of Lillie Belle Allen, killed during 1969 race riots in York, Pa., will share in a $2 million settlement, city officials announced Tuesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The children and sisters of a black woman who was killed during race riots in this central Pennsylvania city 36 years ago will share in a $2 million settlement, city officials announced Tuesday.

The deal would settle the lawsuit that Lillie Belle Allen’s family filed against the city and five former police officers, one of whom was more recently the city’s mayor. It also calls for the creation of a memorial to Allen and Henry Schaad, a white city policeman who also was shot to death during the 10 days of rioting in the summer of 1969.

“I thank God we’ve finally come to closure,” said Hattie Dickson of York, one of Allen’s sisters, who joined other family members and city officials at a news conference.

York Mayor John Brenner apologized to Allen’s family.

“We are very sorry for your loss, and I know no monetary settlement and no community dialogue will bring back Lillie Belle Allen,” he said.

The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial in April.

The settlement, to be paid by city taxpayers, still must be approved by the five-member city council, which was scheduled to take a vote Tuesday night. Council President Cameron Texter predicted unanimous approval and called the settlement “absolutely fair.”

The settlement agreement provides for annual payments of $200,000 over 10 years to Dickson; Allen’s other sister, Jennie Settles; and Allen’s two children, Michael, who was 9 when she was killed, and Debra Grier, who was 11.

Allen, 27, who lived in Aiken, S.C., was visiting relatives when she was killed. Family members were confronted by a mob of white youths when they drove into the city on July 21, 1969. Allen was shot when she got out of the vehicle to take the wheel from her frightened sister.

New evidence, after 30 years
Her case went unsolved for more than 30 years until prosecutors convened a grand jury and uncovered new evidence.

The wrongful-death lawsuit accused former York Mayor Charlie Robertson, who was a police officer at the time of the shooting, four other former officers, and the city of inciting violence and covering up evidence and identities of those involved.

Robertson was acquitted of murder charges in a 2002 trial. Two white men were convicted of second-degree murder and are serving lengthy prison sentences, and seven other white men pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser offenses.

Two black men were convicted of second-degree murder in Schaad’s killing.