Santa Clara, CA – A jury awarded $1.7 million to a teen who held a knife to his throat and was subdued by the police, KTVU reported.
A jury found Santa Clara Police Officer Mike Horn liable for the July 8, 2012, incident involving Austin Calhoun, the Mercury News reported.
Calhoun’s attorney, John Burris, said Calhoun was hit in the head by two rounds of “rubber bullets,” required brain surgery, and now has a skull deformity.
The City of Santa Clara stood behind Officer Horn, and said he handled “a very dangerous situation per accepted police practices,” the Mercury News reported.
According to KGO, Calhoun was 16 years old when he wandered into a fire station while intoxicated and called 911.
Officers responded to the fire hall where they “found a young man out in public, holding a knife to his throat,” Santa Clara Police Captain Phil Cooke said.
Capt. Cooke said a negotiator was called to the scene, but that Calhoun forced officers to act when he advanced towards them.
Officer Horn fired two rubber projectiles, hitting Calhoun twice in the head. Another officer released a K-9 unit to help subdue the teen.
The projectile impacts caused Calhoun’s brain to swell, and led to emergency surgery to remove a portion of his skull, KGO reported.
“We think they showed great restraint and utilizing the devices they had rather than resorting to deadly force,” Capt. Cooke said.
Burris argued that Calhoun is a victim of “unreasonable force,” the Mercury News reported.
“When a person is suicidal, they have an obligation to de-escalate and not engage and accommodate the person by killing them,” Burris said. “Just because they’re suicidal doesn’t mean you should do it. You’re supposed to save lives, not take lives.”
But the officers didn’t kill him, they saved his life – fact that seems lost on the jury.
According to KTVU, Burris said he actually asked the jury to award Calhoun $10 million for physical and emotional injuries, and $2 million for punitive damages, but indicated he and his client were satisfied with the $1.7 million the jury deemed appropriate.
“Sadly, it seems that money is the only way to force the police to stop unnecessarily killing and injuring citizens who are suffering from mental health issues,” Burris told the Mercury News. “The conduct of the officers was outrageous, and Mr. Calhoun was fortunate to survive.”
Burris is a well-known civil rights attorney who represented Rodney King, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, and Tupac Shakur.
Officials from the city of Santa Clara did not immediately respond to a request for a comment, KTVU reported.
The City of Santa Clara is responsible for paying $1.7 million to Calhoun.