King County reaches settlement in excessive force case

SEATTLE -- King County has reached a settlement with a man who suffered a broken nose during a confrontation with a deputy.

The county agreed to pay $75,000 to Jeff Gold, who alleged Deputy Matt Paul used excessive force during an incident on May 1, 2010. The same deputy was involved in a 2009 incident that left Christopher Harris paralyzed and in need of 24-hour care for the rest of his life.

The incident involving Gold occurred at a bus stop near West John Street and Queen Anne Avenue North, according to King County sheriff's spokesperson Cindi West.

Deputies were addressing a group of young men when Jeff Gold began taking photos of their activities on his phone. Deputies told Gold to stop taking photos of the incident, but he did not.

It is legal to capture images and videos of police activity in public places as long as doing so does not interfere with their work. Gold's attorneys said the man kept his distance from police, and was not interfering in any way.

When Gold left the scene, he jaywalked in front the deputies, West said. The jaywalking escalated the situation, and Paul, who was on scene, "tackled him and pushed his face into the ground," according to a written statement by Gold's attorneys.

Gold suffered a broken nose and facial injuries. He was held for investigation of obstruction of justice, but was not charged.

Paul made headlines when he slammed Harris, a civilian, against a wall outside Cinerama in downtown Seattle in 2009.

Surveillance video from the theater showed Harris racing toward Paul, who appeared to have stopped with his arms outspread, and of giving him a shove that knocked the smaller man eight feet and through the air into the base of a wall.

County prosecutors declined to file charges against Paul, saying there was no legal basis for a criminal charge.

Witnesses said the incident began when several men, some covered in blood, ran into a convenience store where Harris had been shopping. Deputies chasing down the suspect were mistakenly told by witnesses that Harris was the man they wanted. Harris had not been in the fight, but he ran.

The surveillance video shows the end of the chase as moviegoers are exiting from the Cinerama theater, about 2 1/2 blocks from where the chase began.

Harris comes into view, makes a slight turn and slows down as Paul gives him a fierce shove, knocking him off his feet. Harris' head slams into the base of a tiled wall outside the movie house.

Two witnesses said Harris seemed to be stopping and said, "I don't have anything, I didn't steal anything," just before he was hit by Paul, who weighed about 270 pounds, about 100 pounds more than Harris.

One deputy acknowledged on the witness stand that the deputies did not identify themselves to Harris before they started chasing him.

King County reached a settlement for $10 million with the Harris family.
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