Nov 2, 2017
Orange County, CA – Video has been released which shows a deputy repeatedly head-stomping a suspect after emptying a magazine into him. The force was in response to the suspect attempting to murder another deputy.
The video has just been released as the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the deputy may be sued for using excessive force.
The incident happened in 2013 when Deputy Juan Lopez responded to a domestic disturbance.
Police were called when 21-year-old Connor Zion bit his mother and then started cutting his mother and roommate with a butcher knife.
Immediately upon Deputy Lopez’s arrival, Zion charged him and started stabbing him.
Deputy Michael Higgins arrived to find Deputy Lopez on the ground with Zion repeatedly stabbing him.
Neighbor Mike Shackelford spoke with CBS2’s Stacey Butler about what he witnessed.
“The kid came up [from] behind him and hit him,” said Shackelford. “And then [the deputy] went down and he started stabbing him. Then the second officer pulled up and told him to stop. And he wouldn’t.”
Seeing Zion actively attempting to murder another deputy, Deputy Higgins opened fire on Zion, pursuing him while firing nine shots until Zion dropped.
Deputy Higgins then fired his remaining nine rounds until his magazine was empty; Zion was still moving.
Deputy Lopez was down after being repeatedly stabbed. Deputy Higgins was in a position where he needed to ensure that Zion was no longer a threat before providing potentially life-saving first aid to his partner.
Rather than taking the time to handcuff Zion and search him for weapons, Deputy Higgins stomped on his head three times and then ran to provide first aid to his partner.
Zion was pronounced dead.
Deputy Higgins saved the life of Deputy Lopez, and was awarded a medal of valor.
Zion’s mother later sued, claiming that the use of force was excessive.
A three-member panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that while the shots could be determined to be justified, the head-stomping appeared to be excessive. This ruling allows the lawsuit against Deputy Higgins to go forward.
“…terminating a threat doesn’t necessarily mean terminating the suspect,” Judge Alex Kozinski wrote.
You can see the video of the incident below. Do you think that this use of force was justified? We’d like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments. WARNING: Graphic content.