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WSU student accepts $500,000 to settle excessive force lawsuit against Pullman Police Department

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 9, 2019

Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins speaks during a Feb. 4, 2014, news conference flanked by other police chiefs and county sheriffs. A Washington State University student who alleged Pullman police officers used excessive force while taking him into protective custody inside a Jack in the Box in 2016 recently settled his lawsuit for $500,000. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Pullman police Chief Gary Jenkins speaks during a Feb. 4, 2014, news conference flanked by other police chiefs and county sheriffs. A Washington State University student who alleged Pullman police officers used excessive force while taking him into protective custody inside a Jack in the Box in 2016 recently settled his lawsuit for $500,000. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Washington State University student who alleged Pullman police officers used excessive force while taking him into protective custody inside a Jack in the Box restaurant in 2016 has settled his lawsuit for $500,000.

A notice of the settlement for Kyle North was filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane in early December, but the amount has not previously been reported.

Two people, including a night manager at the Jack in the Box, called police to check on North, who was acting increasingly paranoid in the early hours of Aug. 18, 2016, believing someone was following him, according to court filings.

Officers Douglas Anderson and Michael Sontgerath responded and tried to persuade North to get mental health treatment at a local hospital. After about 20 minutes, he agreed – but then said he was fine, pulled away from the officers and started walking back toward the soda machine, body-camera footage showed.

The officers grabbed North, took him to the floor and shocked him with a stun gun. The lawsuit alleged Sontgerath fractured and dislocated North’s right arm while putting him in handcuffs.

North was later diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

The Pullman Police Department accepted no fault as part of the settlement.

“My position is that the settlement was a business decision made by our insurance carrier to avoid the cost of a federal trial and the potential for an unfavorable jury verdict,” Chief Gary Jenkins said in an email.

“We do not believe our officers did anything wrong and, in fact, handled the call well by employing their crisis intervention training with patience until the circumstances required officers to attempt to take Mr. North into custody,” Jenkins said. “The officers’ actions were to control Mr. North and overcome the physical resistance he was presenting to them.”

Erica Krikorian, one of North’s attorneys, said her client will receive about $334,000 from the settlement, a nontaxable sum that will help the 21-year-old get a fresh start. The other third of the money will go to the attorneys.

The lawsuit originally sought $1 million in damages. Krikorian said she had been eager to take the case to trial, but ultimately the attorneys decided not to deprive North of the $500,000 settlement and risk an unfavorable outcome.

“He’s thrilled,” Krikorian said. “He doesn’t want to go through it again, but he does have some sense that some modicum of justice was done.”

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