A disabled African-American man was awarded $1.6 million last week Wednesday in damages after a jury found that LAPD officers used excessive force that left the man with a broken collar bone and nerve damage in his wrist.
Allen Harris, 56, of Inglewood, California, who had suffered a stroke in the past that left him disabled, was awarded the compensation by a Los Angeles Superior Court Jury after finding that the arresting officer caused nerve damage to the his wrist when he was handcuffed too tightly during a search at his residence.
According to the L.A. Times, Jurors then ordered on Thursday that the arresting officer, Alex Tellez, pay an additional $90,000 of his personal funds in punitive damages.
One of the jurors, Gayle Chavkin, told the Times that jurors felt “we needed to send a message that this is not right — don’t ever do this again. We felt there needed to be a consequence for him disregarding Mr. Harris’ pleas.”
During the trial, Chavkin said the arresting officers, ten in total, claimed that Harris did not show any signs of disability, even though he walked with a noticeable limp.
Chavking added, “It was the same testimony over and over and over: ‘I don’t recall. I don’t recall’ … They were clearly just closing ranks … It felt untruthful to us. Somebody matching Officer Tellez’s description handcuffed Mr. Harris that day and hurt him.”
The incident occurred on November 2009, when LAPD officers entered Harris’ apartment with a search warrant for his son while investigating an armed robbery at the store where Harris’ sons worked.
The arresting officers then ordered Harris to put his hands up, turn around, and walk backwards toward the officers, a command that Harris repeatedly told the officers he could not follow because of his disability.
Harris said his plea was ignored as the officer he later identified as Tellez forced his hands into the handcuff before leading him outside his apartment.
Harris’ attorney, James DeSimone, said that doctors hired by both sides testified that the handcuffing by Tellez did in fact cause nerve damage to the victim’s wrist, rendering it less functional than it already was.
According to the Times, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he in a released statement that he was “disappointed by the verdict and the monetary award” and supported plans by the city attorney’s office to appeal.