A jury has sided with two Issaquah police officers who were sued by the wife of a 66-year-old man who died after suffering a neck injury when he was detained by police investigating a 2018 domestic dispute.

A unanimous seven-member jury in U.S. District Court in Seattle sided with officers Michael Lucht and Kylen Whittom after eight days of testimony and a single day of deliberations about the circumstances surrounding the death of Wangsheng Leng.

Leng was hospitalized and underwent surgery for spinal cord decompression after falling limp when officers pushed him onto a couch and handcuffed him. He died a month after the incident.

The King County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide, stating that Leng had died as a result of complications from a “blunt force injury to the neck,” which “occurred in circumstances involving the use of physical restraint.”

The officers’ attorneys disputed Liping Yang’s lawsuit, which alleged the officers had used excessive force during her husband’s arrest. The defense argued Leng was frail and had health problems, unknown to the officers, that contributed to his death.

“The City of Issaquah is pleased the federal jury unanimously found the actions of its police officers were reasonable, necessary and lawful,” the officers’ attorneys, Shannon Ragonesi and Brian Augenthaler of the Seattle firm Keating McCormick Bucklin, said in a joint statement.


“The facts proved, and the jury found, there was no excessive police force used in this case. Mr. Leng’s injury and eventual death would not have happened if he did not have serious, preexisting medical conditions that were completely unknown to the officers at the time the physical force was applied.”

David Owens, one of Yang’s attorneys, called the verdict “more than disappointing” and “a heartbreaking reminder that injustice perpetuates injustice.”

“It is a reminder that our court system can, and does, re-traumatize innocent people subject to arbitrary violence by the government,” Owens said in an email. “The verdict is not only wrong, it is trauma that our client and their family did not deserve and did not choose.

“An innocent man is dead, killed by the police, and left with little recourse. This should not be the case. So, while standing up to the court-sanctioned culture of violence at the core of policing is a difficult but not impossible task, the fight continues.”

The officers had responded to the couple’s apartment after a neighbor called police on Aug. 5, 2018, to report yelling and sounds of items being thrown next door.

The officers’ versions of the following events differed sharply from that of Yang.


They said that when Yang opened the door, Leng was behind her, pulling on her shirt. Yang, in sworn testimony, said her husband, who had Alzheimer’s, stood behind but didn’t touch her. She said the officers’ claims that he had grabbed her were “not true,” according to the court file.

The officers contend that as they were trying to communicate with Yang, the door to the apartment began to close and Lucht decided to enter the home.

Lucht claimed that Leng came at him once he got inside the apartment. Yang has disputed that account, however, saying she invited the officers in and that nobody tried to close the door.

Yang said the officers grabbed her husband and pulled him toward a couch, where they pushed him face down and attempted to handcuff him, using their weight to hold him down, according to the pleadings.

In their police report, the officers said Leng was briefly detained but that he did not assault them and that no injuries resulted from the arrest. They insisted they used minimal force to restrain Leng and that they were gentle when they restrained him by putting him face down on the couch.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly initially sent the case to trial, prompting the officers to file an appeal.

A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later found the officers acted reasonably and legally in entering the home and deciding to briefly detain Yeng in handcuffs. The judges sent the case back to District Court, however, for a jury to determine whether the officers used excessive force during the arrest.