A high school football champion who was shot by police after he appeared to disarm a gunman at a California restaurant has sued the city and its police department for excessive force, his lawyers said Thursday.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, lawyers for K’aun Green, 20, accused authorities of opening fire without giving him a chance to comply with orders to drop the gun after “he had heroically protected himself and everyone in the restaurant” from the gunman.
Green’s “dream of playing Division I football and being drafted into the National Football League are in jeopardy,” the suit claims. “He faces a long and uncertain road to regain the life he once enjoyed.”
Green was struck in his abdomen, a leg and an arm, according to the suit. Part of his intestines were removed, the suit says, as were multiple pieces of shrapnel.
Green said at a news conference Thursday that he was in pain and “hurting inside and out,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“They treated me like a criminal even though I saved my friends’ life,” he told reporters, adding: “It’s still surreal to me, it just hurts to know I can’t play football this year. I’m going to try my hardest to make a comeback.”
A San Jose police spokesman and a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office declined to comment on the suit Thursday.
According to the suit, Green and a few friends were waiting at a San Jose taqueria March 27 when a "stranger" began harassing him and punched him in the face. As Green tried to defend himself, a friend of the attacker pointed a gun at Green and other customers, the suit says.
Green wrestled the weapon away from the gunman and moved toward the taqueria's front door as three people chased him, trying to get the pistol back, the lawsuit says. "Mr. Green fended them off with one hand while simultaneously holding the gun away from their grasp in his left hand."
When Green backed up through the restaurant's front door, a San Jose police officer fired four times. The suit claims that none of the officers gave warning that Green would be shot, nor did they give him time to comply with orders that authorities have said were given to drop the weapon.
Restaurant security video released by authorities last month showed a chaotic scene, with multiple people throwing punches and Green appearing to wrest the gun away from someone. In disturbing bystander video of the shooting, about 4 seconds passes between when Green opens the taqueria's front door and when a police officer shoots him.
The suit claims Green remained handcuffed to a hospital bed after the shooting and was prevented from seeing his family until March 29.
San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata told reporters that officers who responded to the fight believed they were responding to an "active shooter scenario" linked to a nearby homicide.
Authorities later concluded that another person took the gun to the restaurant but that when the officer saw Green backing out of the taqueria, he didn't know that, Mata said. The officer knew only that "the individual holding the gun did not drop it when commands were clearly given to him."
Green is a three-time state football champion who played quarterback at an Oakland high school, the suit says. At the time of the shooting, he was a linebacker at Contra Costa College who earned first-team all PAC-7 conference honors last season, according to the school's athletics program.