Man shot and paralyzed by San Jose police receives record jury award

A federal jury on Monday awarded a San Jose man $11.3 million in the largest jury award in the history of the San Jose Police Department.

The plaintiff, 36-year-old Hung Lam, was shot by police and paralyzed on January 3rd 2014 when they responded outside Lam’s home to him holding a knife. Lam’s attorney’s admitted their client was suicidal and indeed possessed a knife, but they argued the officer used excessive force and violated his civil rights in the incident.

Witnesses said Lam could be seen pressing the knife into his own stomach, but never threatened to harm anyone else. 

A neighbor was trying to calm Lam down when Officer Dondi West arrived to the scene. The officer shouted at Lam to drop the knife. When Lam didn’t comply, West shot him twice in the back.

As a result of the shooting Lam is now a paraplegic and is now confined to a wheelchair.

The jury found that Officer West overreacted and bore the bulk of the responsibility for the shooting.

Lam was awarded $8.3 million in financial damages and an additional $3 million for emotional distress.

“The amount appears to be large, but it really isn't large when you consider all that he's going to need in order to live independently,” said Lam’s attorney, John Burris.

Lam, who is Vietnamese, spoke to reporters through a translator on Tuesday.  He requested that his face not be shown for privacy reasons.

San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel defended Officer West who has been with the department for 23 years. 

"The armed male continued to move toward Officer West. Officer West attempted to retreat as the armed male advanced toward her. Officer West appropriately used deadly force in fear for her life," he wrote in a statement.

Esquivel added that Officer West would continue to work with the department in her regularly assigned position.  

Despite not being able to walk again, Lam said he holds no malice or ill will towards the police.