After a deputy rarely fired at Lake Tahoe, a Silicon Valley engineer was paralyzed with a huge payoff

Samuel Kolb took his final steps in a cabin on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

In January 2018, a software engineer from Silicon Valley rented the space with his 16-year-old son for a few days of skiing and watching football. The teenager woke up one morning before sunrise that his father was behaving strangely and called 911 to report that he was suffering from some sort of “mental psychosis,” court records show.

A dispatcher from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department sent the call over the radio, saying it was a possible 5150 police code for a person in need of severe mental health treatment, according to records. Kolb, added the dispatcher, is a brain condition that can make him stunned and unfamiliar with his surroundings.

Kolb claims he doesn’t remember the sheriff’s deputy lighting the dark cabin with his flashlight, and he has no recollection of picking up the big fork from the counter as he walked. He remembers waking up in a hospital and being told he was shot and will never walk again.

This week, Placer County completed a $ 9.9 million payment to settle a federal lawsuit against Kolb and his family against the sheriff’s ministry for excessive violence, negligence, and other alleged violations. The municipality, which spares the county from the possibility of losing a larger judgment in a trial, is the largest of its kind in the history of the county. The huge salary rejects the MP’s claims that he had no choice but to shoot when Kolb attacked him.

Sam Kolb in a wheelchair hugged by his 15-year-old daughter and then by his 18-year-old son in November 2019

Sam Kolb in a wheelchair hugged by his 15-year-old daughter and then by his 18-year-old son in November 2019, more than a year after he was shot by Placer County Deputy.

(Family photo)

In addition to the size of the settlement, the shooting itself also stands out in Placer County, where law enforcement officers rarely use lethal force. In 2018, MPs shot down just another person in the county that stretches from the suburbs of Sacramento to the shores of Lake Tahoe and is home to just over 400,000 people, and no one was shot in the previous year or the year after, California says. Attorney General’s Office. In contrast, officers from the much larger Los Angeles Police Department hit people with guns 25 times in 2018.

Kolb’s shot generated local news. The stories clung to an official account made public by the sheriff’s ministry, which framed Kolbo as a troubled man who was shot after trying to stab a Member with a sharp instrument.

But in court, Kolb’s lawyer, Ron Kaye, presented a completely different story. Kaye, who was recently elected Supreme Court judge in Los Angeles and who refused to comment on the settlement, portrayed Deputy Curtis Honeycutt as a member of a class trained in handling calls involving the mentally ill.

Kaye also focused on testimony and evidence in Honeycutt’s account of the shooting. For example, there were no tears or clues in his uniform that Honeycutt claimed Kolb stabbed him in.

County attorneys argued in court records that Honeycutt had acted reasonably in light of what he thought he had to do in a fraction of a second when he met a man who might have waved a deadly gun. In a review of the shooting, the Placer County Prosecutor’s Office found that the deputy “had no choice but to use lethal force” to defend himself and that “the deputy’s actions were reasonable to protect his life” – a language that reflects legal standards for where justified by the use of lethal force.

Today, Kolb is sitting in a wheelchair and doesn’t feel anything under his belly. Forced to use a colostomy sachet, he survived several serious infections, including sepsis. He said he was in constant pain.

“I would pay all the money and interest to walk again,” Kolb said. “It all changed the way I lived. I used to be athletic … I skied, played tennis, swam, ran and was an active father. “

According to Kolb, financial settlement is just some conclusion to a life-changing encounter.

– Sgt has no consequences. Honeycutt, he said. After 27 years of police work, Honeycutt retired in May.

“A wide range of risk factors decided on the settlement,” said Greg Warner, deputy councilor for Placer County. “The county maintains that the deputy’s actions were reasonable and appropriate.” Honeycutt did not receive any comments.

Kolb worries about the lasting impact of the shooting on his now 19-year-old son, who asked for help after his father started muttering nonsense and crouched on the cabin floor. For more than two decades, Kolb said he suffered from similar episodes that his doctors suspected were caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Although the official diagnosis was elusive, Kolb said he was hospitalized once in 2002 after an incident at a San Francisco movie theater.

When Honeycutt stood up and saw Kolb standing barefoot outside in the cold, he asked if he needed medical help, and Kolb replied unanimously that he did. Instead of placing Kolbo in the back of his SUV, it is common practice for the deputy to take the 48-year-old man and teenager back to the cabin.

Upon entering, Kolb grabbed the fork, which Honeycutt claims had bought late, according to court records. Honeycutt said he saved a radio after Kolb stepped forward, touched it with his fork, and backed away. Then, he claims, Kolb came up with it a second time and made him shoot his 9mm Glock pistol twice. One bullet hit Kolbo on the left, the other stepped on his back, injuring the computer engineer’s spine, the records show.

Honeycutt said in a deposit that Kolb fired when he fired, but the orbits of the bullets and Kolb’s injuries suggested otherwise, Kaye’s forensic analysis revealed in court.

Kolb’s son, according to court records, said the deputy did not warn his father to throw away the pot or otherwise try to resolve the situation peacefully before he shot.

Retired expert witness Kaye, a retired lieutenant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff, said the failure to warn Kolb was one of several mistakes Honeycutt said, according to court records. Before resorting to his weapon, Clark said Honeycutt should have tried to capture or divert Kolb’s attention with a stun gun in his hand or a flash placed in the flashlight. Clark added that Kolb, who was about 100 pounds less than the MP and stood six inches shorter, was probably not defeated.

Kolb’s son, court records show, shouted to the deputy, “Why did you shoot him? Why did you shoot him? … It was a fork, man! The lawsuit alleges that deputies detained the boy and interrogated him, secretly recorded his telephone conversations with his family members, and tried to persuade him to report the shooting with Honeycutte.

After the shooting, Kolbo was charged with assaulting a deadly weapon and endangering a child. Placer County attorneys, in defense of Kolb’s lawsuit, pointed out in court submissions that Kolb pleaded guilty to a less serious charge of shaking part of the charge.

Kolb said he accepted the deal because it allowed him to avoid jail time and start looking for a new job to support his family. He now works on Facebook, where he leads an engineering team.

“It’s a uniquely American problem,” he said, referring to the relatively high number of police shootings in the U.S.: “If I lived in the first country of any other world, I wouldn’t be paralyzed.”