An attorney's move to collect $1.4 million the city had agreed to pay to the families of three men killed by police prompted an early bankruptcy filing to avoid paying the settlements, officials said Thursday.

"He was moving to execute, and had the judge taken action the city wouldn't have been able to make its next payroll," said City Attorney James F. Penman. "Bankruptcy protection prevents him from seizing our assets."

In addition to three cases alleging excessive force, which Penman declined to elaborate on, he said another creditor had begun trying to seize machinery from the city last week.