The family of a man left brain-damaged after he was tackled by a King County sheriff’s deputy in 2009 will receive an additional $1.47 million from the county in a settlement announced today.
The settlement follows a judge’s ruling in September that King County withheld information on the deputy’s troubling behavior from the attorneys representing the injured man, Christopher Harris. Under the settlement, the county must pay $1.178 million, on top of $300,000 in sanctions levied by the judge on Sept. 14.
The settlement is in addition to the $10 million the Harris family received in January 2011 in the midst of a civil trial in King County Superior Court.
Harris, 32, of Olympia, was left brain-damaged, paralyzed and unable to speak after he was tackled and pushed into a wall by Deputy Matthew Paul in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in May 2009. Harris had been wrongly identified as a suspect in an earlier bar fight.
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The incident was captured on surveillance video.
On May 10, 2009, Harris was walking through Belltown when he was wrongly identified by a witness as a suspect in a bloody bar fight that re-erupted inside a nearby convenience store.
The witness pointed Harris out to Paul and another deputy, who were working as King County Metro Transit officers.
Harris led the deputies on a roughly 2 ½-block foot chase as the deputies yelled for him to stop. The two sides disputed exactly when the deputies identified themselves as officers.
According to testimony during the civil trial, Paul and the other deputy were wearing black tactical uniforms, not traditional deputy uniforms. Harris’ attorneys said he likely didn’t realize the deputies were law-enforcement officers.
As Harris slowed to a stop, Paul delivered a hit to Harris’ chest, slamming him into the concrete wall outside the Cinerama theater at Fourth Avenue and Lenora Street. A surveillance camera captured the incident. Harris is seen raising his hands before he is hit by Paul.
An internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office determined Paul delivered a “hard shove” to Harris that fell within legal bounds. The King County Prosecutor’s Office, calling it “a very tragic incident,” declined to file criminal charges against the deputy.
But after reaching the settlement, Harris’ attorneys contended the Sheriff’s Office and county withheld emails and other documents that outlined internal concerns about unnecessary or excessive force used by Paul in other incidents. They filed a motion at the end of last year asking a judge to sanction the county and order it pay an additional $3.3 million.