SAN JOSE, Calif. - A 20-year-old college athlete who said he grabbed a gun from drunk customers at a popular downtown taqueria and then was shot four times by police filed a federal lawsuit against the city of San Jose.
K'aun Green – a three-time high school state football championship football quarterback at McClymonds High in Oakland who now plays for Contra Costa College – should be considered by "all reasonable accounts – a hero," his lawyers, Adante Pointer, Patrick Buelna and Angel Alexander, wrote in their lawsuit filed Wednesday.
"In all honesty," Green said Thursday at a news conference, speaking publicly for the first time. "I'm in pain. I'm hurting inside and out. It hurts to be shot."
But he added in an emotional speech where his parents rubbed his back, the real pain came when his teammates came to visit him and he knew he couldn't leave with them to play football this season.
"I never thought I'd be in this position," he said, wiping tears from his eyes with his left hand, which is in a cast. "It's surreal to me. I was treated like a criminal."
To date, San Jose police have not acknowledged Green's role in the early morning hours of March 27 at La Victoria Taqueria, where they released video showing a brawl among about half a dozen men; some of whom were armed at the small restaurant. Initially, they described Green as a suspect and they have not changed their definition or description of his actions that morning.
Green continues to be "disrespected," Pointer said at a news conference, despite the fact that he has still not been charged with any crime.
"Did anyone have the decency, the professional courtesy, to say ‘We got it wrong. We made a mistake,' " Pointer said, flanked by Green and his family. "They're not ready to atone. They're ready to throw more dirt on Mr. Green's name."
The suit names the city of San Jose as a defendant and claims police used excessive force and civil rights violations.
Sgt. Christian Camarillo, a spokesman for San Jose police, told KTVU in an email that the department doesn't comment on pending litigation. The city of San Jose and the city attorney did not immediately return comment on the suit.
At a news conference last week, police described a hectic scene, saying their officers couldn't have known that Green wasn't a dangerous and armed criminal. All they saw as they approached the restaurant was him holding a gun. They said they ordered Green to drop it, but Green said he didn't hear their commands.
Police said when they arrived at La Vic, a homicide had occurred a block away about 30 minutes earlier, and police feared the two instances were related and active shooter might be on the loose. It turned out they weren't related.
Photo courtesy of San Jose police.
In the suit, Green gives his version of events.
He was approached by an unknown man who appeared quite drunk. That man became aggressive, the suit states, and challenged K'aun to a fight. The two began wrestling and fell to the floor.
A second man who looked like he was friends with the drunk man pulled out a gun and pointed it at Green and other customers, the suit states.
"K'aun bravely sprung into action," the suit states. "He disarmed the gunman to protect not only his life but the lives of the other customers in the restaurant."
At this point, three men rushed Green and demanded that he give the gun back, according to the suit.
Green backed away from the group toward the front door of the restaurant while "pleading tforhe attackers to stop," the suit states.
When Green reached the front door, one of the men reached out and grabbed his clothes, refusing to let him go. Green slipped away, stepping back and stood in the door frame of the restaurant, holding the gun with the barrel pointed at the sky – which is seen in a still photo that police released the day after a four-year veteran shot him in the abdomen, arm and knee.
Just as police had no idea at the time if the homicide and the La Victoria fight were related, Green had no clue that police officers had arrived at the restaurant.
"Within mere seconds of arriving on the scene and without giving any sort of reasonable warning or opportunity to comprehend and comply with any orders, a San Jose police officer shot K'aun four times just after he had heroically protected himself and everyone in the restaurant from the gunmen," the suit states.
Though none of the bullets shattered any crucial bone or muscles, Green had emergency surgery on his intestines and his dreams of playing Division I football and being drafted into the National Football League are in jeopardy, the suit states.
While in the hospital, Green was "disrespected," Pointer said at a news conference, since police handcuffed him to the bed and forbidden to see his parents.
Green said that no one called his mom, and thoughts of keeping alive for her stayed with him through the searing pain.
"I refused to die," Green said. "I needed to tell my momma that I'm OK."
His mother, K'elea Thompson, also spoke, saying she woke up early that morning knowing that something was wrong with her son, not knowing at the time that he was possibly saving other people's lives.
She has yet to receive a call from police about what happened, adding that no mother should have to find out from social media that her son has been shot down.
Police arrested a 30-year-old man for being a felon in possession of a gun at the restaurant, but that man has seen been released from custody.
No other arrests have been made.
K'aun Green had emergency surgery on his intestines after San Jose police shot him at La Victoria Taqueria.