Man shot at by sheriffs 100 times awarded $1.3 million
Shirley Hawkins | 3/12/2008, 5 p.m.
A man who was shot at 120 times by Los Angeles County Sheriffs was elated Friday when he walked out of the Compton courthouse with a $1.3 million settlement.
Compton resident Winston Hayes, 46, was the target of excessive gunfire by sheriffs in May 2006. Sheriffs were investigating a report of shots fired in a Compton neighborhood when they spotted Hayes vehicle and approached to question him. Unbeknownst to Hayes and the sheriffs, an amateur photographer was shooting a videotape of the incident.
Fearing that he was about to be assaulted, Hayes, who admitted in court that he had been smoking cocaine and marijuana on the night of the shooting and also admitted that he is bipolar, began to slowly drive away. Nine of the bullets struck Hayes and 66 bullets struck Hayes sport utility vehicle.
One of the bullets hit Hayes in the head and he has partial paralysis on the side of his face, said Hayes attorney, Brian Dunn of the Cochran Firm. He can see out of one eye, but the whole left side of his face is paralyzed.
Other injuries Hayes sustained from the shooting included multiple shots in the back, a partially severed finger and a bullet to the jaw, which caused his paralysis.
Sheriff Lee Baca disciplined all the deputies involved with suspensions of up to 15 days. He made changes to the departments shooting policy.
Michael Gennaco, head of the sheriffs Office of Independent Review, also concluded that deputies violated tactical and pursuit policies.
The jury, who deliberated for 10 days, agreed that although the sheriffs used excessive force, only two of the 10 deputies involved, Michael Haggerty and Vergilian Bolder, were guilty of excessive force.
The videotape that was shot on the night of the incident proved to be the key piece of evidence in the 10-day trial. It shows the entire incident and where all the deputies were standing at the time of the shooting, said Dunn. You could clearly see that Hayes car was going three miles per hour and the deputies just kept shooting at the car.
Hayes, who testified on his own behalf, tried to explain his past convictions for assault, arson, theft and resisting arrest. But ultimately, jurors decided that the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department needed to take responsibility for their actions.
Dunn said that Hayes was extremely pleased after the verdict. Justice was done, said Hayes, who had originally turned down the countys offer of $500,000 to settle the case. In total, Hayes was awarded $1,326,468.60.
We do hope this verdict will cause the Sheriffs Department to pay greater attention to its relationship to the community, Dunn told Our Weekly.