A jury awarded $85 million to the family of a man who suffered from a mental health crisis and died while being held by San Diego County lawmakers in 2015.
Tuesday’s federal jury verdict came in a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against San Diego County over the death of Lucky Phounsy following a confrontation with lawmakers — including a law enforcement officer who subsequently served time in jail for assaulting women on duty.
The large award, issued after a two-week trial, is one of the largest civil judgments against the county in recent history, according to the agency Los Angeles Times.
“We asked the jury to return a verdict that reflects the truth about his death and that reflects justice for what was taken from this family,” said Tim Scott, a lawyer for the family, loudly CNN subsidiary KGTV. “We think the jury’s verdict brought both truth and justice.”
“I think that judgment was about accountability,” attorney Gerald Singleton, who also represented the family, said Wednesday, according to the LA Times. “They have a lot of very good officers doing this job, but they’re not doing a decent job of getting rid of the bad apples.”
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement it plans to meet with its legal representatives to “further evaluate the verdict.”
“As always, our ultimate goal is to provide exceptional law enforcement services in San Diego County,” the statement said.
A county spokesman reportedly said in a statement: “We will review the case and decide on the next steps.”
“Until then, we have no comment on the case,” the spokesman added.
According to the lawsuit filed in late 2015, Phounsy, 32, dialed 911 on April 13, 2015 when he began suffering from a mental health crisis. He experienced delusions that someone would hurt him, his wife, and their two children.
The deputies dispatched to the crime scene acted “unnecessarily confrontational, aggressive and profane” and aggravated the situation, the lawsuit said.
Phounsy became “fearful and confused” when they tried to handcuff him, the suit says.
“The MPs did nothing to de-escalate the situation as they were aggressive and profane,” the lawsuit says.
As Phounsy became increasingly distressed, MPs shocked him several times with electric batons, beat him and beat him with a baton before he was taken away in an ambulance, the suit said.
On the way to the hospital MP Richard Fischer held him, according to the suit.
Fischer pleaded guilty in 2019 to the assault and assault that took place between 2015 and 2017, involving 16 women. Fischer pleaded guilty to four counts of assault under the color of authority, two counts of assault under the color of authority, and one charge of false imprisonment. The Times of San Diego reported.
He is no longer a member of the department. The women accused Fischer of groping, hugging, or attempting to kiss them after touching him at work.
According to reports at the time, Fischer was sentenced to 44 months in prison in December 2019.
During the drive to the hospital in 2015, Phounsy’s heart stopped and although he was revived, he died days later.
The coroner determined that the death was accidental and due to a brain injury caused by his heart, which stopped after his confrontation and restraint, but that the injuries from the deputies’ actions did not cause the heart attack. The autopsy also revealed that Phounsy had a “stimulant-related psychotic condition.”
The county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board concluded in 2017 that lawmakers had used necessary force against Phounsy, stating that he was suffering from paranoid delusions from “illegal drug use.”
The district also countered that Phounsy attacked MPs who tried to handcuff him and that he clawed, bit and punched them.
The family’s lawyers have argued that Phounsy’s system contained no drugs and said he was delusional because he suffered from insomnia which resulted in him not sleeping three days before the incident.
With postal wires
https://nypost.com/2022/03/20/85m-awarded-to-family-of-man-who-died-after-confrontation-with-san-diego-deputies/ $85 million for the family of a man who died after a confrontation with San Diego lawmakers