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Settlement discussions are ongoing and a $1.5 Million settlement is expected to be approved by Oakland (California) city council in the shooting death of 20 year old Gary King, Jr. King was allegedly shot in the back by Oakland Police Sergeant Pat Gonzales. Police alleged that King fit the description of a "person of interest" that they were pursuing, but family member plaintiffs have indicated that a person whose back is turned to the police is not a "significant and immediate threat of death or serious physical l injury" to police or bystanders. Apparently, the City of Oakland agrees, despite claims that they are settling the case to avoid exposure to a large jury verdict.

The lawsuit alleges that Gonazles, not King, created the situation that caused the use of deadly force. Police argue that King shook off the use of a taser and looked to be reaching for a gun when Gonzales opened fire. Gonzales was exonerated in two other earlier shootings, one of which was fatal.

I have spoken to several attorneys who specialize in this area of the law. This type of litigation is difficult and hotly contested. Many of the attorneys I have spoken to believe that the use of excessive force against individuals by police officers is out of control. They indicate that police officers are rarely criminally prosecuted or even disciplined for using excessive force, even when, as in the case of Gary King, Jr., the force results in an individual’s death. Thus, the only effective method of recourse to the family is a civil rights lawsuit against the involved police officers and his/her department or precinct.

It is hard to disagree with the lawyers that I spoke to. Part of the problem is that local government agencies (as they did in the case of Gary King, Jr.) investigate and prosecute the conduct of their own officers. This is, in my opinion, a conflict in interest. There have been many instances where a finding of no criminal responsibility, with or without criminal charges being filed or a criminal trial being held, has not prevented the filing of a civil lawsuit and/or the award of substantial money damages.

Justice is difficult to obtain in these cases, but a lawyer who specializes in this area of the law, can even the odds, considerably. These cases can often take years to resolve, if you find yourself having financial difficulty because of a serious injuryand have a lawyer handling your case, you can apply for legal funding from Lawsuit Financial. Our sincere condolences to the family of Gary King, Jr.. It is our hope that this settlement serves as a form of vindication for you.


  1. Gravatar for Steve Lombardi

    Before the Internet was so widely used I hardly knew of this type of case. Now we see that it's more than just a few cases of heavy handedness and excessive force. I just have to wonder how complex the facts are and did the suspect turn just as the officer was about to shoot? But then again, if he wasn't armed, why would an officer have to shoot his weapon? This is a troubling set of facts as presented. More troubling is the repeated explanations like the one you give, like I thought he was reaching for a weapon. That is so rote and easy to say without substantial factual support.

  2. Gravatar for Mike Bryant

    It's all training, there are so many good cops out there. Steve has done a great series of posts about lack of training in taser use. I agree there are far to many of these "I though" shootings.

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