Defense Verdict for Two Police Officers in Excessive Force Case After 12-day Jury Trial
The plaintiff brought claims of excessive force against one of two police officers and claims of assault and battery against the other officer. The incident in question occurred during a traffic stop. The plaintiff bore a strong resemblance to, and shared the last name of, a known gang member who had outstanding warrants for weapons offenses. During the traffic stop, one of the defendants observed an unnatural bulge in the plaintiff’s pants pocket. The officers ordered the plaintiff to exit the vehicle in order to pat him down for their own safety and to resolve the identity issue. The plaintiff refused to exit the vehicle. When the officer on the passenger side of the vehicle saw the plaintiff’s right hand moving toward the bulge, which he feared could be a gun, the officer entered the vehicle. The plaintiff shifted the car into gear, fled the scene, and tried to push the officer out of the vehicle as he sped away. The officer drew his service weapon and shot the plaintiff, who was struck by several rounds. The plaintiff ultimately was rendered a paraplegic. In addition to the testimony of the parties, the jury heard from 15 fact witnesses and nine expert witnesses. After deliberating for nearly four days, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense with regard to the assault and battery claims, but they were hung on the Fifth Amendment claim.