National Politics

Sacramento to pay $5.2M in police Taser lawsuit

This March 22, 2017 photo shows John Hernandez in his hospital bed in Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento will pay $5.2 million to the family of Hernandez, who was repeatedly shocked by police Tasers and left with severe brain damage, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.
This March 22, 2017 photo shows John Hernandez in his hospital bed in Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento will pay $5.2 million to the family of Hernandez, who was repeatedly shocked by police Tasers and left with severe brain damage, according to a newspaper report Tuesday. Anita Chabria

Sacramento will pay $5.2 million to the family of a 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.

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.

Hernandez, 34, appeared to be on drugs on March 6, 2017, when 911 callers reported he was acting strangely at a pharmacy, court documents indicated.

Hernandez "threatened a number of citizens with violence and was a threat to the community" and was later found to have methamphetamine in his system, Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood told the Bee in prepared remarks.

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."

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