SAN JOSE — A man who became paraplegic after San Jose police shot him in 2017, following a psychiatric breakdown in which he chased a mother and child while naked and led police on a four-mile chase, was awarded $1.77 million by a federal civil jury earlier this month.
The jury found two of the three officers who shot at him used excessive force and its conclusion was informed in part by the contention from plaintiff’s attorneys that officers Erick Enderle and William Wolfe continued to shoot at John Bradley Bowles even after a third officer, Todd Ah Yo, shouted out that Bowles was not carrying a firearm. Bowles was later found to have had a caulking gun.
“It was a difficult case, but in the end the jurors found that when Wolfe and Enderle fired their shots, Mr. Bowles was not an immediate threat to the officers or the general public,” said Jaime Leaños, who represented Bowles along with Dale K. Galipo. “Officer Ah Yo was the closest to Mr. Bowles and only fired one shot. He had also yelled out ‘no gun, no gun’ and ‘no more shooting’ prior to Wolfe and Enderle firing 10 more shots.”
The jury found Enderle and Wolfe liable for excessive force, and cleared Ah Yo. The monetary award was divided between $130,000 for past economic damages and about $1.64 million for future economic damages.
City Attorney Nora Frimann, whose office represented the officers, said the city “disagrees with the jury’s finding of an excessive use of force by two of the officers.” She argued the jury award was more about making Bowles whole from his injuries rather than indicting the city.
“Given his dangerous operation of the vehicle, including crashing into vehicles along the way, the responding officers were concerned that he was a threat to people in the shopping center as long as he was in the truck which he refused to exit,” Frimann wrote in an email to this news organization. “When it appeared that he was starting to move the truck into the parking lot, additional shots were fired by the police.
The episode began the afternoon of March 17, 2017 when Bowles, experiencing a mental-health crisis, chased a mother and her daughter while naked, then went on a four-mile tear through West San Jose in his pickup truck, ramming a police car and hitting several other vehicles along the way. When Bowles got to Stevens Creek Boulevard near Lawrence Expressway, in front of the Villa Shopping Center, the damaged truck rolled to a stop.
All parties in the lawsuit appeared to agree on the ensuing sequence. Police said Bowles “aimed what appeared to be a weapon” — later determined to be a caulking gun — at the officers, spurring Ah Yo to shoot at the truck. Bowles then reportedly revved the engine and appeared to be trying to move the truck, prompting Enderle and Wolfe to open fire.
Leaños argued when the lawsuit was filed that by the time the second volley of gunshots were fired, it was clear that the truck was disabled, Bowles was isolated, and that officers had a chance to de-escalate the situation and give him a chance to surrender.
“At the time the truck became disabled, officers had him isolated, and had a chance to slow down and give him a chance to turn himself in.”
Bowles, now 57, eventually pleaded no contest to charges of assaulting a police officer, evading a police officer, child endangerment, and four counts of hit and run. He was credited for time served — in jail and under supervised release — and completed a court-ordered mental-health program before he moved out of state. Bowles sued the officers and the city in 2019.
Source: CNN – US News