A Los Angeles jury awarded more than $1 million Tuesday to a Palmdale teenager shot by an L.A. County Sheriff's deputy three years ago while the teen was holding a toy gun.
The jury voted nine-to-three that deputy Scott Sorrow used excessive force when he shot and wounded William Fetters, who was 15 at the time. The jury also found that the force used was a substantial factor in causing the Fetters harm.
Fetters, who is 19 years old now, was shot once in his left upper torso near the back in May 2009. His guardian sued L.A. County.
The shooting happened after deputies from the Sheriff's station in Palmdale were sent to investigate a 911 call about a man on a bike pointing what appeared to be gun at cars and people.
Attorneys for Fetters argued that caller mentioned that the gun could be fake. The defense maintained the toy gun Fetters was holding didn’t have an orange tip as most toy guns do.
In a partial verdict late Tuesday afternoon, the jury awarded Fetters $1,127,600. Most of that money was for non-economic damages, meaning damages for pain and suffering.
But the jury, which had deliberated for a week, couldn’t decide whether the shooting was done with malice. That finding is significant because it determines if punitive damages should be awarded. Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige ordered the jury to return Wednesday to continue deliberations.
One juror asked to be excused because his employer was no longer paying him while he was in court. An alternate juror was selected in his place.