San Francisco, CA — After a run-in with a Placer County Deputy in 2018, Silicon Valley software engineer, Samuel Kolb was shot in the back and now lacks bowel and bladder control, cannot engage in normal sexual activity and lives with chronic pain. Prior to his son calling 911 for help with his father's medical condition, Kolb had committed no crime and was only in need of medical attention.
The officer who shot Kolb inside a North Lake Tahoe rental cabin — twice — was never held accountable. For this reason, Placer County taxpayers just paid out a record $9.9 million to settle the family's lawsuit.
“There’s a measure of relief in not having to go through this and not having to put my family through any more legal challenges. But I would trade all the money plus interest to have my old life back, to not have gone through this and put my family through this, to have full use of my body. No amount of money makes up for that,” Kolb said.
Kolb suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy which can cause people to feel a sudden sense of fear, anxiety, anger or sadness with its onset. Before that fateful night on Jan. 14, 2018, Kolb hadn't had one of these episodes or seizures in 15 years.
While Kolb and his son were on the ski trip in Lake Tahoe, Kolb woke up in the middle of the night and began pacing around the cabin. Realizing something was wrong, he woke up his 16-year-old son and told him to get medical help.
Kolb’s son then did what he'd been told to do all of his life and picked up the phone and called 911. He reported his father was acting odd and was “in a dream-like state," according to court documents.
Kolb's son knew about his father's condition and informed 911 about the temporal lobe epilepsy.
Kolb’s son “did not believe, nor did he represent, that his father presented any danger to his safety — he simply requested medical help as he observed his father suffering from a mental health episode,” Ronald Kaye, the Kolbs’ attorney, said in court documents.
Instead of receiving medical help, as Kolb's son requested, 911 sent Placer County Deputy Curtis Honeycutt.
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When Honeycutt arrived, he found Kolb outside in a short-sleeved shirt, pajama bottom, and barefoot. It was below freezing, so Honeycutt told Kolb to go back inside — instead of securing Kolb in the back of the patrol car to await mental health intervention, according to the lawsuit.
Kolb, at the peak of his seizure, was delusional and when he went back into the cabin, he picked up a BBQ fork, approximately 10 inches in length.
In response to Kolb’s raising the fork, Honeycutt began “repeatedly, unreasonably and unjustifiably discharging his office issued firearm,” shattering one of Kolb’s vertebrae as he shot the software engineer in the back, the lawsuit said.
Honeycutt would claim, and subsequently be backed up by his department, that the fork made him fear for his life. So he had no other option but deadly force after Kolb picked up the fork.
The sheriff's department would later claim that Kolb attacked the deputy with the fork and that the deputy's bullet proof vest saved his life. Then and only then, according to the official report, did Honeycutt use his service weapon.
This version of events is disputed by Kolb's son, however, who later testified that his father never attacked Honeycutt and forensic evidence showed the deputy’s vest had no signs of a stabbing.
After the incident, Kolb was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, which is a felony, and felony child endangerment. Kolb fought those charges and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense of brandishing a deadly weapon other than a firearm “in order to spare my family further legal trouble and spare my son having to testify and worry that he held my life in his hands,” Kolb said, according to SFGate.
Kolb, who now works as an engineering manager at Facebook, says he volunteers his free time to push for massive changes in policing and to remove blanket immunity for police officers.
"This is a morally bankrupt and corrupt system that is bent on one thing, which is protecting the power of the entrenched police unions and this power structure,” he said.