Jan 17, 2011 at 10:05 PM PST
SEATTLE -- Twenty months after he suffered catastrophic brain damage, the wife and family of a 31-year-old man severely injured during a run-in with police in downtown Seattle will have their day in court.
Christopher Harris was walking in Belltown on May 10, 2009, when he found himself caught in the middle of a foot pursuit.
Two King County deputy sheriffs told him to stop and he ran. When he slowed outside the Cinerama cinema, a deputy knocked him into a wall.
He hasn't been the same since.
Unable to walk, talk or care for himself, his wife and family claim Harris was the victim of excessive force in the early morning incident, which was captured on a theater surveillance camera. Months after the incident, they filed a lawsuit on Harris' behalf against; a jury trial in the matter is expected to begin Tuesday.
According to the civil filing, King County Deputies Matthew Paul and Joseph Eshom were patrolling on foot as transit police for Metro Transit in the Belltown neighborhood the morning of the incident.
The deputies heard a Seattle police report of a disturbance at a nearby convenience store and headed towards it. They then continued down an alley, believing those involved in the convenience store incident had gone that way.
Reaching the end of the alley, the deputies confronted Harris, a passerby who had nothing to do with the events that had brought them to the area.
Harris ran and the deputies, clad in black fatigues, gave chase. He stopped in front of the Cinerama movie theater and, according to his attorneys, was ready to surrender.
"Mr. Harris stopped running, put his hands out in front of him and said, 'I don't have anything, I didn't steal anything,'" attorney Simeon Osborn told the court.
In surveillance video taken at the scene, Paul is shown lowering his shoulder and slamming into Harris. The force of the impact sent Harris head first into a wall, which left him unconscious and suffering from permanent brain damage.
Writing the court, Osborn claimed the deputies then flipped Harris onto his stomach. Had a bystander not told them to place him on his side, Osborn said Harris could have choked on his own blood.
"Christopher Harris has irreversible brain damage, and will never recover," Osborn told the court. "(He) will never walk or talk with his wife and family, or engage in any activities or experiences of daily life."
Harris, he said, will need 24-hour assistance for the foreseeable future.
At trial, King County will attempt to show Harris was largely responsible for his own injuries because he ran from deputies. Harris' contribution to his injuries, if any, could impact the amount the county would ultimately have to pay him or his wife.
In pre-trial pleadings, an attorney for the county, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kristofer Bundy, described Harris' choice to run from the pursuing deputies as "extremely foolish and negligent."
"If he had not ran, the officers would have been able to speak with him and quickly determine that he was not the violent felon that they thought he was," Bundy told the court. "Therefore, Mr. Harris would not have been injured if he had not run."
Osborn contends the deputies had no lawful cause to arrest Harris, and that they used force beyond that allowed by department policy or state law.
Opening statements are expected Tuesday before Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend, to be followed by several weeks of testimony. Harris' attorneys are expected to request at least $25 million in damages.
Click to view image: 'Chris Harris hospitalized with catastrophic brain'
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