Seattle, Wa — On Tuesday, the city of Seattle confirmed it will be paying out what is thought to be the largest use of force settlement to a man named Nathaniel Caylor, who police shot in the face in 2009.
Caylor sued Seattle PD officers Schubeck and Leslie “in federal court, alleging excessive use of force and outrage, and accused the department of conducting a negligent investigation into the shooting that resulted in his son being taken away from him for a year,” according to The Seattle Times. After 17 surgeries and “a face full of screws, metal plates and bone grafts,” a court decision was reached to award Caylor damages in the amount of $1.975M. The settlement awaits approval by a federal judge.
Caylor was shot in the face by Officer Eugene Schubeck, a Seatle PD patrol officer and hostage negotiator, on May 22, 2009. Police were responding to a call placed after Caylor told a family member he was suicidal and locked himself in his apartment with his 20-month-old son. Caylor was reportedly depressed after the child’s mother died two weeks prior.
Court records show that Schubeck spoke with Caylor twice from his position above the man’s patio. Caylor came out once with his child, who Schubeck acknowledged seemed fine. Schubeck then told his coworker, Officer Don Leslie, that if Caylor came back out, he had no intention of letting him back inside and planned to shoot him. “Don’t miss,” was Leslie’s response.
Caylor did then walk out a second time and yelled at Schubeck for pointing his gun at him and turned to go back inside. Schubeck then shot him in the face without warning, in front of his 20-month-old-son.
Caylor’s attorney, Tim Ford, argued in court that Caylor was ordered out of the house, but not told that he would be shot if he went back inside, setting up an essential “death trap.”
Officer Leslie stated in a deposition that he was “shocked” at Schubeck’s actions, and “didn’t think he was serious” when he said he was going to shoot Caylor. A hostage situation doesn’t really seem like an appropriate time to joke about shooting someone. I guess “Don’t miss” was the punchline.
Neither officer Schubeck nor Leslie agreed with the terms of the settlement but were dismissed before it was settled, according to Evan Bariault, one of Schubeck’s lawyers.
Not surprisingly, the police department made excuses for this negligence. Officials stated that this incident occurred prior to reforms that were implemented due to a court-monitored consent decree, which came after a Department of Justice investigation into excessive use of force by Seattle Police.
SPD Chief Kathleen O’Tolle said the “officer made a difficult decision under difficult circumstances, at a time when the Department did not have the policies, procedures and training in place that we have today.”
Basically, the officer shot a suicidal man in the face without warning BEFORE there was a policy to tell him not to do that, so it’s not really his fault.
To make matters worse, Caylor was arrested after the shooting, convicted with felony harassment, and his parental rights stripped. Child protective services suspended his parental rights “based on the statements of a homicide detective, Jeffrey Mudd, who told the agency that Caylor had used his son as a human shield and had threatened to kill the boy.” A judge restored Caylor’s parental rights in 2011 when it determined that none of that was true.
City Attorney Pete Holmes called the settlement “a business decision,” and stated that Seattle PD “has learned a great deal in partnership with our lawyers to minimize such losses in the future.”
Well, since police have a hard time looking at civilians as human beings, maybe looking at them as dollar signs will help minimize the loss of life and limb at the hands of trigger-happy agents of the state.