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Calif. city to pay $1.7M to man who was hit by rubber bullets while armed

Austin Calhoun reportedly left a party intoxicated and held a knife to his throat before he was shot in the head with rubber bullets


By Jason Green
The Mercury News

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The city of Santa Clara will pay $1.7 million to a man who suffered “life-altering” injuries after a police officer fired two rubber bullets that hit him in the head.

Handed down last week, the verdict followed a jury trial in which lawyers for Austin Calhoun argued Santa Clara police Officer Mike Horn used unreasonable force during the July 8, 2012, encounter.

Calhoun, who was 16 at the time, reportedly left a party intoxicated, walked to a fire station near Homestead Road and Kiely Boulevard, and called 911. He was in the midst of a mental health emergency and holding a knife to his throat when officers arrived, but he did not threaten anyone, said attorney John Burris, whose office represented Calhoun.

A police spokesman at the time said the officers had to act when Calhoun came near them.

Horn opened fire with a gun, known as a SAGE launcher, that shoots rubber bullets and hit Calhoun twice in the head. Burris said his client required life-saving brain surgery and will live with a skull deformity for the rest of his life.

The city is standing by Horn’s actions.

“Our sympathy goes to the plaintiff and his family as we recognize the need for long-term medical care but do believe that the officer acted in good faith in a very dangerous situation per accepted police practices,” said city spokeswoman Jennifer Yamaguma.

Calhoun, meanwhile, is satisfied with the verdict and hopes it will prevent people with mental health issues from being injured in a similar fashion in the future, Burris said.

“Sadly, it seems that money is the only way to force the police to stop unnecessarily killing and injuring citizens who are suffering from mental health issues,” he said. “The conduct of the officers was outrageous, and Mr. Calhoun was fortunate to survive.”

©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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