L.A. County to pay $3.8 million in death of man shocked with Taser

The shoulders and backs of a row of sheriff's deputies in unform
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to pay $3.8 million to the family of a man who died after a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to pay $3.8 million to the family of a man who died after a sheriff’s deputy shocked him with a Taser.

The family of Brian Pickett alleged that deputies used excessive force during the 2015 incident in Willowbrook.

In a memo recommending supervisors settle the case, county lawyers said that while the deputies claimed their actions were reasonable, the payout was needed because of “the high risks and uncertainties of litigation.”


Deputies responded to a family disturbance call at the home of Pickett’s mother, who told deputies that he was acting erratically and threatening her after taking drugs, according to an incident summary attached to the memo.

The mother told deputies that Pickett had fought with police and been shocked with a Taser in past encounters with law enforcement.

Deputies waited for backup and then confronted Pickett, who refused commands to place his hands behind his back and step out of the bathroom, the summary said.

As Pickett appeared to grow agitated, clenching his fists, a deputy fired his Taser, striking him in the chest, the summary said. The deputy held the trigger down, shocking him for 29 seconds, which amounted to nearly six of the Taser device’s 5-second activation cycles.

Pickett then fell into the bathtub and thrashed his arms and legs around. Deputies lifted him out and carried him to a hallway, where they handcuffed him and restrained his legs.

Soon after, Pickett went into cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

The district attorney’s office concluded that deputies used lawful force in detaining Pickett and declined to file criminal charges. Sheriff’s officials found that the tactics and use of force were within department policy.


A memo by the district attorney’s office said Pickett died due to the “effects of methamphetamine associated with probable excited delirium,” a common, controversial conclusion in such cases. The memo said the coroner’s office “could not exclude the effects of the Taser” as a contributing factor in his death.

Pickett’s death echoed the findings of a 2017 investigation by Reuters, which examined more than 1,000 cases of people who died after police stunned them with Tasers.