From [HERE] and [HERE] Sacramento will pay $5.2 million to the family of a Latino man who was repeatedly shocked by police Tasers and left with severe brain damage, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.
The City Council voted in a closed-door session to settle an excessive force lawsuit filed by the family of John Hernandez, the Sacramento Bee reported. City of Sacramento taxpayers – not the police who kill and maim – have shelled out millions of dollars in excessive force lawsuits in the past few years. [MORE]
The settlement is believed to be the largest in the city's history, the paper said.
The city and the police officers involved "dispute liability" but agreed to settle to avoid a long and possibly costly trial, Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood.
“This never should have happened,” said civil rights attorney John Burris of the incident at a hastily-called news conference in front of the Federal Courthouse late Tuesday.
Burris said a key piece of evidence was that the officers involved – although they tased the unarmed Hernandez up to 10 times – either were not taser trained or admitted to never reading the manuals on how to use the sometimes lethal tasers.
“One officer actually is heard saying ‘let him go,’ but then they all became cowboys,” charged Burris, who said the 125-150 pound Hernandez was not only repeatedly tasered, and beaten with batons but also crushed when much larger officers – one, he said, weighed more than 300 pounds – ground Hernandez into the ground face first.
The crime to which officers responded in 2017 was minor. Hernandez reportedly was making noise and harassing people at a Rite Aid in East Sacramento. Not the crime of the century, but city of Sacramento police responded by sending three officers: Casey Dionne, Ishmael Villegas and Michael Hight.
“It was loitering at most,” explained Burris. But police not only repeatedly tasered Hernandez, but pressed their ultra-heavy bodies on top of him while he was facing down on the pavement, cutting off his air pathway and stopping him from breathing.
“No force was necessary. This is when officers should have used de-escalation. But they didn’t,” said Burris.
Burris, who said Hernandez has been living in “abject poverty” awaiting resolution of the case, now has the means to live decently because of the “constructive settlement.” His “special needs” condition is what led to the settlement, said Burris, adding “I’m really concerned that he be taken care of.”
“He’ll never be the same. But the family is happy that now it’s over,” said Burris.
Hernandez ran from arriving officers but three tackled him. During a fierce struggle, he was shocked with Tasers nine times and jabbed with a baton five or six times, the city's attorneys said in a trial brief.
The lawsuit said Hernandez stopped breathing and was "completely without oxygen to his brain" for over 10 minutes as he underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
However, the city argued that Hernandez was still breathing when paramedics arrived.
Hernandez was in a coma for days. His family said he has the mental capacity of a toddler and requires 24-hour care.
"There can be never be a winner after a horrific tragedy like this but Mr. Hernandez's settlement will ensure that he can be cared for in the years to come," said John Burris, the family's attorney.
"This really started out as a minor event," Burris said. "This is a man who may have been creating a public disturbance, but he wasn't physically assaulting anyone, he didn't have a weapon. ... But under the principles of de-escalation, (police) could have slowed this process down ... so it's an unfortunate set of circumstances that created this environment."