When a 16-year-old California teenager headed home from a party one night, he was intoxicated, feeling suicidal and in need of help.
He hesitated over killing himself and called the emergency hotline instead — although he still kept a knife raised to his own throat as officers arrived.
He claims that he never threatened anyone except himself. Officers claim that he moved near them with the knife still in his hands.
One of the officers picked up a gun that fires rubber pellets and shot the teen twice — directly in the head.
Rubber bullets or not, they did significant damage to his skull and he had to undergo brain surgery to save his life. He’ll also have a permanent deformity in his skull for life.
The department defended the officers, saying that they had used reasonable force — but they offered no reasonable explanation as to why the officers couldn’t shoot the teen in the chest or shoulder instead of the head with the rubber bullets. It’s unlikely that the teen could have harmed any of the grown, trained officers with the knife, even if he had come near them.
A jury apparently agreed. They awarded the teen — now an adult — $1.7 million in damages from the city for the officer’s use of excessive force.
Cases like this illustrate how even “safe” weapons can end up causing brain damage if they hit the skull at the right point — and how a government entity can end up responsible for the actions of its law enforcement officers when they act with unnecessary amounts of force against those having a mental health breakdown.
Anyone who is the victim of a brain injury caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another should seek legal advice about their options promptly — regardless of who inflicted the injury.
Source: mercurynews.com, “Santa Clara to pay $1.7M to man shot with rubber bullets,” Jason Green, Nov. 30, 2017