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Minneapolis School Board approves settlement with family of Deshaun Hill

Hill was leaving North High School in February of 2022 when he was shot and killed.

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Public School Board approved a $500,000 settlement with the family of a student who was fatally shot after leaving North High School. 

Police say 15-year-old Deshaun Hill Jr. was shot Feb. 9 in the area of Penn Avenue North and Golden Valley Road. He was rushed to the hospital, where he died the next day.

The school board approved the settlement in Tuesday night's meeting.

North High principal Mauri Friestleben was put on leave by the Minneapolis School District for her decision to let students walk out of class Feb. 9 to attend a sit-in at Minneapolis City Hall to protest the police shooting of Amir Locke. Friestleben was later allowed to return to her position.

Hill family attorney William Walker maintains Friestlben's decision ultimately led to Deshaun's death. 

"If that principal had not released these children over the instruction of the district... D. Hill would be alive today," Walker told KARE 11 during a phone interview Tuesday, just hours before the vote. "They (Hill's family) are devastated... You can talk to a mother who cries every day. D Hill Jr. was loved by everybody. He was the hope for this family."

Walker said particularly disturbing is the fact that North families and caregivers were not informed about the decision to let students leave early, saying the Hills would have picked Deshaun up at school rather than let him walk home or to a public bus.  

The proposed settlement was reached during negotiations with attorneys for the school district, Walker said. He explained that Minnesota statute limits the damages that can be sought in a lawsuit against a public entity like the Minneapolis Public Schools, adding that the Hill family is "not happy with the value placed on their son's life." Walker did credit the district's legal team for their compassion and professionalism in reaching the proposed settlement, saying no one wanted to force Deshaun's family to relive his painful loss. 

Friestlben declined comment Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Public Schools released the following statement Tuesday evening:

"The family of Deshaun Hill, Jr. asserted claims against Minneapolis Public Schools arising out of his tragic death. While the school district denied all liability, it reached a settlement with the family. While the school board authorized the settlement, ultimately, the settlement must be approved and distributed by the Hennepin County District Court. The senseless murder of Deshaun Hill will always be the ultimate tragedy. We hold his family and close friends in our hearts and always will."

Tuesday's vote came as Showtime released a documentary on the North High football team. "Boys in Blue" was in the process of being filmed when Hill was killed last February.

The trial for the man charged with Hill's shooting, 30-year-old Cody Fohrenkam, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 17. 

According to a criminal complaint, Hill possibly brushed shoulders with Fohrenkam while walking down the sidewalk of Golden Valley Road on Feb. 9. The complaint also said Fohrenkam looked like the shooter seen on surveillance video and that he admitted to being in the area at the time of the shooting.

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