A federal jury in San Francisco today awarded a diabetic bodybuilder at least $152,000 on his claim that Redwood City police used excessive force on him at a scuffle at a movie theater in 2007.
Douglas Burns, 50, of Cupertino, was known as “Mr. Natural Universe” after he won a competition for steroid-free bodybuilders in 2006.
He alleged in a civil rights lawsuit that officers Jaime Mateo and David Gough failed to notice he was in insulin shock when Mateo pepper-sprayed him and the two officers wrestled him to the ground and struck him with batons before handcuffing him.
The officers said Burns initially appeared to be drunk and to be resisting arrest.
The jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg concluded after a two-week trial and three days of deliberation that Burns suffered damages of $217,784 in the incident.
The jurors found that Mateo used excessive force and that both officers were negligent. The panel also said Burns was negligent as well and that the officers had 70 percent of the responsibility of the negligence and Burns had 30 percent.
Lawyers for Burns and the city disagreed on whether Burns will receive the entire damages amount or 70 percent of it, which would be an award of $152,448.
Joseph Howard, a lawyer for the city, said Redwood City will appeal the entire verdict by first asking Seeborg to set aside the judgment and then, if necessary, appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News