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UPDATE: King County just announced a settlement with the Harris family for $10 million. The P-I has more here.
More than 20 months after King County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Paul mistook Christopher Harris for an assault suspect and slammed him into a cinema building wall in full view of a nearby security camera, Harris can still no longer walk, talk, or eat on his own.
Paul, meanwhile, remains a deputy, having long ago escaped charges stemming from the incident.
But a civil suit that started yesterday and will continue into next week may provide funds to support the 24/7 care needed to keep Harris alive.
The incident happened on May 10, 2009, outside the Cinerama Theatre in Belltown.
Harris had been mistakenly identified by a witness as part of a group that shortly beforehand had been involved in a stabbing.
Paul and another deputy then saw Harris from across the street with three of his friends, and at that point people's stories begin to differ. The deputies shouted--something; they later said they had identified themselves as police, but least one witness says they didn't.
In any case, Harris took off running and the deputies gave chase.
The pursuit ended outside the Cinerama, where Harris began to slow to a stop and raise his hands, just in time for Paul to deliver a running shove that lifted Harris off his feet and sent him crashing backward into the cinema wall, leaving him with permanent brain and spinal-cord damage.
Here's the security-camera footage of the takedown.
Later, with Harris still in a coma, KCSO spokesman John Urquhart explained the situation, saying that "sometimes bad things happen to good people."
At the hearing Thursday, the Seattle Times reported, three witnesses who saw the incident testified. One said the group had no idea who the deputies were because they were dressed in dark fatigues.
The deputy "just came right at him full force and pushed him. The kid lifted off in the air and slammed" into the wall, said Cody, 44.
"I ran up because I didn't know who these guys were," (Ron) Cody said of the deputies, testifying that he thought they were bouncers because of their all-black dress. He said they identified themselves as officers and told Cody: "You don't know what he did."
For the same reasons that Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk will likely escape criminal charges for the shooting death of John T. Williams, Paul avoided charges because of the strict laws that protect officers who use force in "good faith" that it's against a bad guy--most notably RCW 9A.16.040(3), which states: "A public officer or peace officer shall not be held criminally liable for using deadly force without malice and with a good faith belief that such act is justifiable pursuant to this section."
Civilly, however, there are no such protections. And at $25 million to cover hospital care for Harris and emotional damages to Harris' wife and family, the suit is no drop in the bucket.
Hearings start again on Monday.