Man Dies After Being Slammed Against Concrete Wall In 2009 By Deputy Sheriff

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Christopher Harris
Christopher Harris

A thirty-six-year-old man who suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a result of a use of force by a King County Washington sheriff’s deputy in 2009 has died as a result of his injuries, according to a Thurston County forensic pathologist. The coroner’s office determined the death to be caused by a homicide. This does not necessarily mean that the homicide was criminal in nature. It means that the death was caused as a result of a person and is not necessarily criminal nature. Such a determination is within the purview of the County Prosecutor’s Office.

I find the use of force to be troubling, however the deputy was cleared by both an internal affairs investigation and a review by the County prosecutor’s office. I do not agree with the findings of the IA but I recognize it would have been a difficult criminal case presented to a jury.

 

The incident began after Christopher Harris ran from deputies who had mistaken him for a suspect at a local cinema. After a chase spanning several blocks Harris stopped and turned, facing the deputy. A moment later one of the deputies shoved Harris backward whereupon his head impacted a concrete wall apparently rendering him unconscious.

A video of the incident may be viewed HERE.

While the incident could be construed as a flight from a Terry stop which the state Supreme Court ruled as violating the state statute for obstructing a law enforcement officer, I don’t believe the use of force could be justified based upon the totality of the circumstances.

First, from the information presented I am not convinced that events leading to the use of force was sufficient to justify the amount of force used, given the location at which it occurred, in so far as a shove on a sidewalk into a concrete wall is to be pronounced reasonable. Had this instead been an situation involving the use of a weapon against the officer or other persons I could understand and perhaps excuse the amount of force used as it would likely necessary to quickly subdue suspect. Mitigating circumstance might have been raised that the deputies involved had believed at the time of occurrence that Mr. Harris was involved in criminal activity. Nevertheless we have to look at circumstances in which the use of force was used.

christopher-harris-injury

It is well known to officers and any person in general that a sudden fall to concrete is likely to result in great injury. In fact the state Supreme Court had ruled previously, though I don’t believe it was before this incident had occurred, that slamming a person’s head to concrete floor could be considered a felony assault where the floor was in fact a weapon.

I did not see in the surveillance video and it was not reported that Mr. Harris was attempting to draw weapon when he turned to face the deputy.

If we could use the example of training with a Taser, the instructions are that caution should be used one deploying a Taser against a suspect while the suspect is on concrete or is moving or running on the concrete. A Taser was not used in this incident but it could further be used as evidence that the deputy’s training should have encouraged him to not use such force into a concrete structure.

Wile hindsight can always be more clear than in the field, I believe in this case the deputy should of known that the amount of force used against the person was not necessary as he had stopped and in his stance made him extremely vulnerable to injury given the type of force the deputy intended to use against Mr. Harris. A more reasonable use of force would have been to take hold of Mr. Harris and put him to the ground in a manner unlikely to cause injury to him. Given the two block flight, putting him on the ground is the reasonable approach as it would minimize the possibility of flight and combat with the officers.

The second act that I consider an unreasonable force was setting up and dragging Mr. Harris into a cuffing position having seen an obvious injury that rendered him unconscious. But more importantly from the angle in which he had impacted the wall it presented a high probability of a catastrophic neck injury where further movement of Mr. Harris could have greatly increased his vulnerability to paralysis and death. I understand that officers do not have an x-ray or an MRI device to determine if the neck injury had occurred in the field, they should have known that moving a person in this type of situation regardless if it was criminal in nature or an accident could lead to catastrophic neck injury. Had the striking against the wall been caused by a person being ejected from an automobile, and the deputies had seen this, I very much doubt that they would of moved Mr. Harris as they did and instead would have immobilized him and waited for an EMS crew to put a cervical collar on him and place him atop a backboard.

In 2011 King County agreed to pay to Mr. Harris a $10 million settlement after a tort claim filed on behalf of his wife Sarah. In her complaint she accused the King County Sheriff’s deputy of using excessive force and was negligent.

Following the incident, Mr. Harris suffered since 2009’s dramatic and catastrophic brain injuries rendering him totally disabled and removing him from an otherwise healthy lifestyle. He recently died consequent to those initial injuries according to the pathology report stemmed from “acute and chronic pneumonia of the lungs, due to medical sequelae, due to blunt head trauma.”

By Darren Smith

Source:

Q13 Fox

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

40 thoughts on “Man Dies After Being Slammed Against Concrete Wall In 2009 By Deputy Sheriff

  1. Paul

    I watched the video before I commented and then again just now. It is clear that the cop fired his body into the individual in such a way as to produce the maximum of force, harm, impact whatever. The cop crossed his arms to concentrate his mass. He planted his feet and used his body as a projectile. This is not someone in control of the situation unless his objective was to take the individual out as completely as possible. It seems that he did just that. Personally I don’t want cops like that on the beat. It was not necessary or he was out of control. His being in control and doing it is somewhat worse than if he was out of control. Either way the guy should not be a cop, not trusted with the public he is supposed to protect.

    • issac – I will agree that it was not a complete accident, however, the time between the time the guy turns around and stops is so slight that the average person could not make a judgment call as to whether he was a problem or not. So, best case scenario, take him off his feet.

  2. @stevegroen
    1, February 20, 2016 at 3:55 pm
    “Honestly, if anyone here doesn’t believe that was excessive force from the moment of contact, s/he should vote for Trump because s/he’s as much of an idiot as he is.”

    If you’ll consent to changing “idiot” to “authoritarian,” we’ll be in complete agreement.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that apologists for police brutality are authoritarians, and I’ve recently come across some essays making the case for a strong connection between authoritarianism and support for Trump:

    “I am going to only briefly summarize the authoritarian types, who can be broadly broken down into ‘leaders’ and ‘followers.’ Starting with the followers, who are more prevalent and who are characterized by their submissiveness to established authorities, a trait that becomes combined with a general aggressiveness toward others. [Dr. Robert] Altemeyer labels these followers ‘right-wing authoritarians,’ and from his studies I developed a laundry list of characteristic and traits consistently found in these people.

    “Specifically, as I noted in Conservatives Without Conscience, the authoritarian followers are both men and women, who tend to be highly conventional, always and easily submissive to authority, while willing to work aggressively on behalf of such an authority. They tend to be very religious, with moderate to little education, trusting of untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (e.g., with respect to gay marriage); they are typically mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical of their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarians, severely punitive; they also demand loyalty and return it, have little self-awareness, and are typically politically and economically conservative Republicans.

    “These are the characteristics and traits of Donald Trump’s followers. They are a special breed of conservatives, many of whom identify themselves as Tea Party Republicans, although there are a few Democrats who fall in these ranks, and would love to see Trump in the White House.”
    http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-authoritarian-ruler-republicans-and-some-dems-have-been-waiting

    And from an article that will more than repay reading it in its entirety:

    “Last week the National Review, which some pundits consider the American conservative movement’s most influential publication, warned that Trump was ‘a free-floating populist with strongman overtones.’

    “My data indicate that the 20 conservatives who argued Trump must not become the Republican nominee got their description of him half right. His rhetoric is that of a strongman’s. But his doctrine isn’t populism, it is authoritarianism. The difference is quite important and may explain why Trump’s Teflon candidacy continues to exceed conventional expectations.

    “After analyzing 14 years of national polling data from 1992 to 2006, Hetherington and Weiler concluded that authoritarianism was driving political polarization in America. While authoritarians can be found among self-identified Democrats and Independents, their slow but steady movement over time to the Republican Party may have created the conditions for a candidate with an authoritarian message like Trump’s to emerge.

    “Trump’s support is firmly rooted in an American version of authoritarianism that, once awakened and stoked, is a force to be reckoned with. And until quite recently, the institutions and leaders tasked with guarding against what Madison called ‘the infection of the violent passions’ among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or derelict in performing their civic duty.

    “Trump’s authoritarian support may be too solid and his momentum too strong to stop his march to the Republican nomination.”
    http://www.newsweek.com/channeling-dark-side-trumps-supporters-421282

    Then there’s this, which was forwarded to me by an authoritarian follower whom I’ve known personally for years, and who considers me a friend:

    “An interesting analogy

    “You’ve been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean racoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately so you hire a guy. A pro. You don’t care if the guy smells, you need those raccoons gone pronto and he’s the guy to do it! You don’t care if the guy swears, you don’t care if he’s an alcoholic, you don’t care how many times he’s been married, you don’t care if he voted for Obama, you don’t care if he has plumber’s crack…you simply want those raccoons gone! You want your problem fixed! He’s the guy. He’s the best. Period.

    “That’s why Trump. Yes he’s a bit of an ass, yes he’s an egomaniac, but you don’t care. The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republican Party is two-faced & gutless, illegals are everywhere. You want it all fixed!

    “You don’t care that Trump is crude, you don’t care that he insults people, you don’t care that he had been friendly with Hillary, you don’t care that he has changed positions, you don’t care that he’s been married 3 times, you don’t care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell, you don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some muslim terrorist,…this country is weak, bankrupt, our enemies are making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo and Hamid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don’t even recognize the country we were born and raised in; ‘AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED’ and Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want.

    “You’re sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and sick of illegals and everyone being ‘PC.’ You just want this thing fixed. Trump may not be a saint, but he doesn’t have lobbyist money holding him, he doesn’t have political correctness restraining him, all you know is that he has been very successful, a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things and he’s also not a politician, he’s not a cowardly politician. And he says he’ll fix it.

    You don’t care if the guy has bad hair.

    You just want those raccoons gone.

    Out of your house.

    Now.

    • Ken Rogers: Excellent post. Authoritarianism certainly is plausible, although there are other hypotheses such as from William Sheldon’s Varieties of Human Physique (which George Sheehan mentioned in his book, Running and Being) in which he details the three races of humans by their body structures and the inherent personality traits corresponding to each, or Freud’s blank canvas evolving negatively through parental ruination. Who knows which is more plausible?

      I have a different perspective of excessive force and it doesn’t follow any pattern. It’s simply a question: Was the officer’s act punitive in nature where punitive means force which is more than the minimum reasonably necessary to detain the suspect?

      The reason I include the word ‘punitive’ is because retribution is meted out by the Judiciary, not arbitrarily by an Executive agency’s employee. And it is clear to me that excessive force is more likely than not linked to punishment being meted out by the officer.

      Here, the suspect, even after running from the officer, was standing there, still, arms out and facing the officer, who came barreling in like Larry Little leading an end sweep. It was clearly more force than necessary to detain him. Even if he weren’t intending to submit to detention, there was no good reason to assault the fellow. He could simply have stood there waiting for backup like a civilized human being.

      And obviously, on good legal counsel, the county board settled on $10,000,000.00 in damages, so they too thought the force used was excessive.

      All the hypotheses above which attempt to extricate the officer from excessive force are total bunk, or perhaps authoritarianism, which is no less than a variety of idiocy.

  3. “This is not someone in control of the situation…”

    Exactly the point; he’s trained to get them into control. When did things get out of control? Did he ever have them in control? When he arrived at the call, were things in control? If not, did he ever get them in control before the young man took off running? What did he know about the scene that would make chasing this man necessary? If he had not hit his head, would the force still have been excessive? If he had tackled him while in a full run and hit his head, would that have been excessive force? Spike strips and pit maneuvers have resulted in serious injury and death of innocent people; is it possible to measure the amount of force necessary in any given situation while active “in” a situation like this? How many rules of engagement exist today having been established AFTER reviewing situations like this?

    If only he hadn’t run…

  4. Ken,
    Authoritarianism arises when chaos leaves the people clamoring for social order. The authoritarian regimes that bring “order” have one thing in common and it is not that they claim to be liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican; its their promise of order. The Rahmism, “never let a crisis go to waste” is the siren song for the statist’s power. The result of authoritarianism is a net growth in centralized power. This growth means a loss somewhere else; the states and the people. When the order is restored, the the power is not returned. Eventually a crisis happens, chaos once again requires order and the cycle is repeated.

    The rise of Trump and Sanders is indicative of the current “chaos” and loss of “order”. Each pointing blame at the establishment (statists) and neither calling for a constitutional solution to the problem. I trust where Sanders wants to take this country. I respect his honesty and reject his vision. I do not trust Trump which makes his vision meaningless.

    The only legitimate response to the statist’s call for order should be a call for constitutional order. Both major political parties have rejected the constitution for progressive ‘order’. The only rational response to the destructive, statist, progressive regimes this country has endured for the last 100 years is to reject more of the same. We need a leader that begins and ends with the constitution. If we are unable or unwilling to want constitutional order then we deserve the authoritarian that will eventually succeed to the throne.

  5. To bad for this Deputy Sheriff that an inquest and an autopsy was performed. If he had the good fortune to have Judge Cinderella Guevara in charge, she would have determined that the man died of natural causes by telephone, without need for examination of the body, and that would have been the end of it.

  6. Ralph Adamo
    1, February 21, 2016 at 11:40 pm
    “To[o] bad for this Deputy Sheriff that an inquest and an autopsy was performed. If he had the good fortune to have Judge Cinderella Guevara in charge, she would have determined that the man died of natural causes by telephone, without need for examination of the body, and that would have been the end of it.”

    What was “too bad” for the deputy sheriff? This benefactor of “qualified immunity” didn’t pick up any of the tab for his reprehensible conduct__ the taxpayers of King County did.

  7. @Olly
    1, February 21, 2016 at 10:13 am
    “Authoritarianism arises when chaos leaves the people clamoring for social order. The authoritarian regimes that bring ‘order’ have one thing in common and it is not that they claim to be liberal or conservative,

    “The only legitimate response to the statist’s call for order should be a call for constitutional order. Both major political parties have rejected the constitution for progressive ‘order’. The only rational response to the destructive, statist, progressive regimes this country has endured for the last 100 years is to reject more of the same. We need a leader that begins and ends with the constitution. If we are unable or unwilling to want constitutional order then we deserve the authoritarian that will eventually succeed to the throne.”
    ——————————
    From previous exchanges between us, I thought we were in agreement that the State is a creation of individuals with natural rights, and that its sole legitimate function is to see to the observation of those natural rights in the interactions of individuals.

    Is there anything in the following with which you disagree?

    “Locke argued that the legitimate authority of the state was granted to it by civil society, that the state existed by the power of civil society, that this was its source of power morally and in actual fact.”

    “Without a strong civil society the police, the army, the bureaucracy and the judiciary tend to dissolve into a mob of individual thieves and hoodlums, each grabbing whatever he can, and destroying whatever he cannot. It is civil society that holds the state together. The state does not hold civil society together. Civil society is not a creation of the state. The state is a creation of civil society.”
    http://jim.com/rights.html

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