A jury voted unanimously Wednesday to award about $7.8 million to a man shot in 2011 by a Riverside County sheriff's deputy.
William Howard suffered a severe brain injury and partial paralysis after being shot in the face by Deputy Armando Munoz, said Howard's lawyer, Dale Galipo.
The jury returned its verdict after deliberating for about three hours in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
“We are humbled and thrilled with the jury verdict,” Galipo said afterward. “The sheriff’s department for the County of Riverside has denied all responsibility and really forced the case to go to trial. It was not an easy case.”
Howard, who was unarmed, was shot as he hid from deputies in a Cathedral City storage facility, court documents said. Deputies were looking for him on an outstanding felony warrant for an armed robbery, according to Galipo.
Munoz shot Howard in the face within a second of Munoz opening the closet door, court records said. Munoz claimed Howard lunged at him and thought he was about to be killed or seriously injured by Howard, according to the documents.
“Verdicts like this give hope to victims of police misconduct,” Galipo said. “I think it sends a message to police officers that they will be held accountable if they use excessive force.”
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
Howard spent about 18 months in the hospital and will require medical attention for the rest of his life, according to Galipo and court records. He is currently in a wheelchair and cannot walk. He has partial paralysis on the left side of his body.
Galipo said that midway through the trial and not in the presence of the jury, Howard, a devout Christian, told Munoz he forgave him. After Wednesday's verdict, the two men embraced, he said.
“I think they both felt bad about what happened,” Galipo said.
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