U.S. News

Seattle settles $2 million lawsuit for excessive force by police

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Seattle has agreed to pay nearly $2 million to a man who was shot in the face by police, the largest known settlement in the city’s history for excessive use of force by police, an official said on Thursday.

Nathaniel Caylor, 35, had filed a federal lawsuit against the Seattle Police Department arguing that officers Eugene Schubeck and Don Leslie used excessive force and violated his Fourth Amendment guarantee against illegal seizure during a 2009 incident in which he was badly wounded.

The officers had gone to a Seattle home to check on Caylor after a family member called 911 saying he was suicidal and had his 20-month-old son in his care, court records show.

They engaged Caylor, who was not holding a firearm, in discussion, the records show. Both officers had their guns drawn and Schubeck fired a bullet that struck Caylor in the lower jaw.

Neither officer had warned Caylor they could shoot him, the court documents said.

Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for city attorney Pete Holmes, said the city would pay $1.975 million to Caylor and his young son. “We are not aware of a larger settlement,” she said.

A federal judge still needs to finalize the agreement, she said.

The Seattle Police Department has been under federal monitoring since 2012 following an investigation into incidents in which officers appeared to engage in excessive force, particularly against minorities.

Caylor, who is white, underwent multiple surgeries after the shooting, the court documents said.

The city had previously sought to have the lawsuit dismissed. Legal costs to defend the suit have reached $524,000 for outside counsel for the two officers, jury consultants and mediation services, Mills said.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who took over the department in 2014 and has been instituting changes demanded by the U.S. Justice Department, told the Seattle Times a new protocol was in effect to deal with situations such as the Caylor incident.

The “officer made a difficult decision under difficult circumstances, at a time when the Department did not have the policies, procedures and training in place that we have today,” she told the newspaper.

Schubeck remains with the force, employee records show.

Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Mohammad Zargham