A federal jury rules unanimously in favor of Chris Dolan’s clients and finds excessive use of force used by police officer Chris Johnson. A verdict of $3, 257,000.00 was awarded to plaintiffs, in Federal Court, Tacoma Washington, and against Chris Johnson and the city of Roy on September 23, 2021. This case arises from a police officer involved shooting just south of the Roy Washington city limits in February of 2019.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNANIMOUS JURY HOLD ROY WASHINGTON POLICE OFFICER LIABLE FOR EXCESSIVE FORCE IN POLICE SHOOTING CASE
On September 23, 2021, a Federal Jury, In Tacoma, Washington, unanimously found that City of Roy Police Officer, Christopher Johnson, violated the Fourth Amendment rights of David Rice and Seth Donahue, when he shot them as they were traveling, unarmed, in their UTV on the BNR rail tracks inside the City of Roy, a rural city of less than 1,000 inhabitants covering .49 square miles. Roy has a police force of 2, one being the defendant, Christopher Johnson. The total verdict was $3,257,000.00.
February 9th, 2019, was a snowy day in Roy, located in Pierce County, Washington, about 60 miles outside of Seattle. Rice and his nephew, Donahue, had been out in their RZR UTV enjoying the 10-12 inches of snow traveling along trails, rail tracks and “tearing it up” through the city streets in Roy. Admittedly, they had been drinking beer (ten and 13 beers respectively over 6 hours) that afternoon and evening. Officer Johnson alleged that Rice, driving the UTV, committed various traffic infractions and that he tried to pull the UTV over in town claiming that he activated his lights and siren, and that Rice and Donahue took off on the railroad tracks to evade him. Rice and Donahue stated they were unaware of Johnson’s pursuit, and it was shown that the rail tracks are a commonly used UTV trails. Home surveillance video, located nearby, peripherally caught the shooting on tape. Dolan argued that “Johnson’s ego, being bruised, let him to turn off his lights and siren and race ahead to try and cut-off Rice and Donahue on the tracks at 295th St. As Johnson approached perpendicular to the tracks, he turned off all the lights on his car “going dark” as the UTV approached. Johnson then quickly drove the police vehicle towards the tracks, turned on only his spotlight, shined it down the tracks towards Rice, and ran from his police car, weapon drawn, towards the UTV. Jonson admitted that he placed himself on the tracks, directly into the path of the approaching UTV and when the UTV didn’t stop, fired two shots into the front windshield and then two more into the passenger window as the UTV went by “fearing for his life.” Johnson was hit by the UTV before firing. Rice and Donahue testified that they were blinded by the spotlight, did not associate it with a police officer, and did not see Johnson until he shot them. Rice was struck on the right shoulder, with the bullet traveling into his chest, and also in the groin where the bullet passed through and exited his left leg. Donahue was shot in the right hand. Dolan used accident constructionists, police procedures and ballistics experts as well as the Chief of the Roy Police Department (the other half of the 2 sworn officers) and Johnson himself, to show that he violated Roy’s Use of Force and Police Pursuit Policies and engaged in an excessive use of force. Dolan and Jessup also prevailed on a Monelll Claim demonstrating the Chief and Mayor of Roy ratified Johnson’s conduct by failing to engage in an officer involved shooting inquiry and engaging in a disciplinary review of Johnson’s conduct and maintaining him on the force.
Dolan said “finally the tide is turning against police abuse. And justice under the 4th Amendment is being secured for those victimized by abuses of police powers. There is not an increase of police abuse, there is an increase in civil prosecution of these cases largely fueled and supported by modern day evidence generated by cell phones and private surveillance cameras.”
David Rice stated “I thank the jurors for their time and honesty and their courage to hold the police accountable. Their decision vindicates me and my nephew: we were out just having fun in the snow, we didn’t threaten anyone, hurt anyone, and were just about home when he ambushes us and shot us. I’m a hunter and you couldn’t even shoot a deer this way without it being a crime. The City of Roy has lied about what happened to the press through their press releases. The Jury saw through those lies. The City of Roy needs to act to remove Johnson and he should be criminally prosecuted for his excessive use of force and abuse of power.”
Seth Donahue stated “I have been afraid of the Roy Police since the day this happened. They painted us out to be criminals when it was Officer Johnson who broke the law. We are good people who were having fun on a snowy night on rural roads, we didn’t know Johnson was supposedly chasing us and he came out of nowhere and opened fire. They need to take him off the street and take his gun and badge. Before he kills someone else.”
Further information may be obtained by contacting Chris Dolan at 415-279-2604 or Local Counsel, Doug Cloud at 253-921-1505