Jury awards $33.5 million to parents of man killed by deputy

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal court jury awarded $33.5 million in damages to the parents of a man who was fatally shot by a California sheriff's deputy in a confrontation more than two years ago.

The jury found Wednesday that the San Bernardino County deputy unreasonably detained 29-year-old Nathanael Pickett, delayed medical aid and was negligent in use of deadly force.

The jury award included $15.5 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages.

Sheriff's officials told the Los Angeles Times and the Southern California News Group that the department strongly disagrees with outcome of the trial and the verdict will be appealed.

The shooting occurred Nov. 19, 2015, outside the El Rancho Motel in Barstow, a Mojave Desert community between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Pickett had recently moved into the motel.

Attorneys for the county said in a court filing last month that Deputy Kyle Woods was patrolling when he saw Pickett looking back at him several times as he crossed a street, and then disappeared.

Woods figured Pickett had jumped a fence into the motel parking lot and followed, also jumping the fence, according to the account.

Pickett gave a false name to the deputy, appeared to be under the influence and ran when Woods tried to detain him, the filing said.

A scuffle began and Pickett ended up on top, repeatedly punching the deputy, who felt he was losing consciousness, pulled his gun and told Pickett to stop or he would shoot, the filing said. The county contended Pickett grabbed the weapon and Woods fired.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Dale K. Galipo, used motel security video and photos of Woods taken shortly afterward to dispute that account.

Galipo said Woods had no visible injuries, video didn't show Pickett throwing punches and witnesses didn't see him grab the gun.

"It was a made-up story," Galipo said after the verdict.

About a year after the shooting, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office completed its investigation and found that Woods was legally justified in using deadly force to protect himself and others. Woods continues to work for the sheriff's agency.

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