SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A man who lost his leg after being shot by a police officer he had attacked with a glass bottle brought excessive force claims against the city of San Francisco Monday, one year after criminal charges were filed against him and the officer that shot him.
Two officers fired their guns at then 24-year-old Jamaica Hampton, who was suspected of breaking into an apartment and multiple cars, after a violent encounter in December 2019. One of the officers — Christopher Flores — shot Hampton after he fell to the ground but started to rise to his knees.
“My client is filing a lawsuit because he was shot when he was defenseless, already suffering from gunshots and lying on the ground,” Hampton’s lawyer, Adante Pointer, said in a phone interview.
Flores, a rookie cop, and his training officer, Sterling Hayes, were responding to reports of house and car break-ins in the city’s Mission District on Dec. 7, 2019.
As Hayes and Flores pulled up to the area of 23rd and Mission Streets, Hampton rushed to the passenger-side door and attacked Hayes as he exited the police SUV, video footage shows. Flores ran around the car to help his training officer. That’s when Hampton whacked Flores in the head with a glass vodka bottle, wounding him in the face and back of his head. Flores then hit Hampton with a baton before the suspect ran away.
Both officers pursued Hampton as he zig-zagged around parked cars. Video shows Hampton advancing toward Hayes as the training officer unloaded six rounds at him. After Hampton fell to the ground and began to rise to his knees, Flores fired another bullet at the suspect. Hayes can be heard on the video yelling “stop, stop, stop” after Flores pulled the trigger.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Hampton labels the decision to shoot after he fell to the ground excessive force.
“Plaintiff wearily lifted his face from the ground when Defendant Flores made the bewildering and grossly unlawful decision to shoot Plaintiff,” the six-page complaint states. “So egregious was the decision to shoot that Officer Hayes shouted for Defendant Flores to stop and tried to intervene.”
As a result of the gunshot wounds, Hampton had to have his leg amputated and suffered significant damage to his arm, according to the suit.
“He was defenseless on the ground and in need of medical help,” Pointer said. “Instead he was treated with bullets which resulted in him losing his leg.”
In December 2020, one year after the incident, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced that a grand jury returned indictments against both Flores and Hampton.
Flores was charged with assault with a semiautomatic firearm, negligent discharge of a firearm, assault by a public officer and two charging enhancements for personal use of a firearm during a felony.
At the time, San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott said he was “surprised and frankly disappointed” with the decision to indict Flores, citing department policy that allows officers to use deadly force when they reasonably perceive an "immediate threat."
Pointer said the police chief is “flat out wrong” in his assessment because Flores’ decision to shoot his client after he fell to the ground was “clearly unjustified.”
“The officers can’t just elect to shoot someone as many times as they want just because they don’t like what the person did,” Pointer said. “The officers are trained and the law dictates that when the person is no longer a threat, you cannot use force against them.”
Hampton was charged with four counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon, felony battery on a peace officer and two counts of using threats of violence to resist arrest.
This past April, a San Francisco Superior Court judge dismissed the charges against Hampton for lack of evidence. The charges were refiled later that month.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and criminal defense lawyers for Hampton and Flores did not immediately return requests for comment Monday.
Flores is represented by Nicole Pifari of Rains Lucia Stern in the crimnal case, and Danielle Harris of the San Francisco Public Defenders Office represents Hampton.
The lawsuit filed Monday seeks punitive and special damages against the city and officer Flores.
Pointer said one can’t put a price tag on a young person losing their leg or having their body “mutilated” for the rest of their life, but if one could, “it would be very expensive."
Pointer and his co-counsel Patrick Buelna are with the Oakland-based firm Lawyers for the People.
A spokeswoman for San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu declined to comment because the city had not officially received the complaint.
“We have not yet been served with this lawsuit, so we are not able to address it in detail. We will review the complaint once we have been served with it,” the spokesman, Jen Kwert, said in an email.
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