Austin, TX – A Travis County jury handed down a shocking $67 million civil judgment on Wednesday against the city of Austin and two individual police officers in connection with the 2017 justified shooting of 24-year-old Landon Nobles.
The incident occurred on May 7, 2017 when officers on patrol in downtown heard gunfire, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Police said the officers identified Nobles as the gunman.
Witnesses said they never saw Nobles point a gun at police but it turned out he did have a gun, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Police said that Austin Police Lieutenant Richard Egal pushed his bike into Nobles as he was running past him.
That was when Lt. Egal saw that Nobles was armed, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Nobles fell, but then he got back up and tried to flee. At some point, the suspect turned towards officers while holding the gun, according to WGRC.
Investigators said that Lt. Egal and Austin Police Corporal Max Johnson interpreted that move by Nobles as an imminent threat and opened fire, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Lt. Egal and Cpl. Johnson fired a total of five shots and Nobles was struck three times.
An investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting was conducted.
Then-Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore ultimately ruled the shooting was justified, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Which is why city officials were taken aback when the jury in the civil lawsuit returned its verdict on Dec. 15.
“The City acknowledges the jury verdict and will explore all options as we move forward,” a spokesman for the city of Austin said. “The City and the officers are genuinely surprised by the verdict, both the question of liability and certainly on the dollar amount awarded.”
The family’s lawsuit had accused police of using excessive force and shooting Nobles in the back, KVUE reported.
The jury in the civil lawsuit found that Lt. Egal and Cpl. Johnson violated Nobles’ Fourth Amendment right to be protected from excessive force, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Court documents showed that the jurors found that the officers’ actions were “objectively unreasonable… such as that no reasonable officer could have believed that the shooting was lawful.”
The jury awarded $67,107,500 to the plaintiffs in the case for damages that included physical pain, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and punitive damages, the KVUE reported.
Court documents showed that the jury determined that Lt. Egal should pay $187,500 of the total damages awarded and Cpl. Johnson should pay $150,000.
Scott Hendler, attorney for Nobles’ family, said the verdict sent the message that people want police accountability, KVUE reported.
“What the verdict says to me is that jurors are beginning to become intolerant of this kind of police misconduct,” Hendler said. “I think the jury wanted to make a powerful statement with this verdict.”
The city has said it is exploring all options and is expected to challenge the jury’s decision, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“Every defendant in a lawsuit has the right to petition the court to reduce the amount of the judgment, to even grant a new trial, which would effectively do away with the verdict altogether,” Hendler told KVUE.