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Jury Awards Payday To Family Of Man Shot While Actively Stabbing Officer

A jury has awarded $2.75 million to the family of Sonny Lam, who was fatally shot while stabbing an officer in 2013.

Sacramento, CA – A jury has awarded $2.75 million to the family of a man who was fatally shot by a Los Banos police officer as he was actively stabbing the officer with a pair of scissors.

According to the jury, the officer used “unreasonable force” by shooting one too many times, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

The incident took place at approximately 3 p.m. on Sep. 2, 2013, when 80-year-old Tan Lam called police to report that he had been assaulted by his 43-year-old son, Sonny Lam.

Tan’s neighbor helped him with the call, due to the fact that Tan spoke very little English.

He said he was worried about Sonny’s mental health, and said Sonny had threatened to kill him.

Los Banos Police Officer Jairo Acosta responded to the Lams’ shared residence, but was not made aware of Sonny’s purported mental health issues, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

Tan escorted Officer Acosta into a room, where the officer attempted to convince Sonny to come outside.

Sonny refused, then grabbed a pair of scissors, police said.

“[He] attacked Officer Acosta, stabbing him in his left arm,” the Los Banos Police Department said in a press release on Friday. “The Officer drew his firearm and a struggle ensued between the Officer and the suspect over the firearm.”

“Fearing for his safety, the Officer discharged his weapon twice, striking the suspect in the left leg and the chest,” the department said.

Sonny was rushed to a local hospital, but died of his injuries during surgery.

On Aug. 15, a Sacramento jury ruled that Sonny stabbed Officer Acosta with the scissors before the officer shot him in the leg, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

“But the jury was unclear as to whether the Officer was under immediate threat when he fired the second round…the round that caused the suspect’s death,” the police department said in the press release.

Because Sonny did not have ahold Officer Acosta’s gun, the jurors ruled that Officer Acosta was negligent in shooting Sonny the second time, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

They held Sonny comparatively at fault, thereby reducing the final verdict amount by 30 percent, the department said.

The agency said it fully backs Officer Acosta, who still works for the department and has been promoted to the rank of detective since the attack occurred, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

“All life is valuable and the use of deadly force is never taken lightly,” the Los Banos Police Department said in the press release. “But we respectfully disagree with the verdict and stand by Officer Acosta and believe that he acted in self-defense in his use of lethal force during a sequence of events that lasted less than a minute.”

The department said it will appeal the verdict.

Holly Matkin - September Sun, 2018


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