The case involving Christopher Harris and the King County police department clearly shows why Washington should not adopt sovereign immunity for law enforcement agencies.
On May 10, 2009, two King County police officers were on patrol when they heard a call to respond to a disturbance at a nearby convenience store. The officers were only dressed in black fatigues. While on route to the convenience store, the two officers came upon Harris–who had nothing to do with the disturbance. The officers approached Harris and asked him to stop. Harris instead ran, apparently not believing the two officers were law enforcement. After a foot pursuit, Harris finally stopped at the Cinerama movie theater. Harris indicated to the officers that he was ready to surrender. Instead of taking Harris into police custody, one of the officers slammed his shoulder into Harris. The force of the impact propelled Harris head-first into a concrete wall, leaving him comatose and severely brain damaged.
Christopher Harris filed suit against King County, alleging use of excessive force that left him brain damaged. A week into trial, King County settled with Harris and his family for $10 million.
- King County settles Cinerama excessive force lawsuit (seattlepi.com)
- Family of man injured by King County deputy settles lawsuit for $10 million (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Witnesses at trial tell how deputy shoved man, injuring him (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- King County Settles with Family of Brain Trauma Victim for $10 Million (slog.thestranger.com)
- King County pays $10M to man slammed into wall (thenewstribune.com)