By KIMBERLY WEAR/North Coast Journal
SAN FRANCISCO - Jurors reached a verdict Friday in a federal wrongful death suit, finding a Eureka, California, police officer and the young man he shot were equally negligent in the fatal encounter that occurred in 2014.
Hours after being handed the case brought by the parents of Thomas “Tommy” McClain, jurors found Officer Stephen Linfoot did not use excessive or unreasonable force.
However, they did find Linfoot and McClain were equally negligent in the fatal shooting, awarding $300,000 in damages to McClain's family. Because McClain was found 50 percent responsible, the amount is reduced by half, with each of his parents receiving $75,000.
Attorney Dale Galipo, who represented McClain’s parents, said they just wanted to see some finding of responsibility on the part of Linfoot and the department.
“I think the family is pleased with the verdict,” Galipo said. “They view it as a victory.”
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said he was thankful for the decision but found no glory in the verdict, noting this was a tragic case that left a young man dead.
”It was avoidable,” Mills said. “(McClain) made some bad choices and ended up being in an officer-involved shooting. I feel for the parents. I feel for the officers. This was the last thing they wanted to go through and endure. It’s just sad all the way around.”
McClain, 22, died after being hit by three of the seven rounds that Linfoot fired during the late-night confrontation on Sept. 17, 2014.
Police say McClain was shot while reaching for what appeared to be a handgun tucked in his waistband – that turned out to be an unloaded BB gun – after defying a series of commands to keep his hands up.
McClain’s family and one witness in the four-day trial maintain his hands were raised and he was attempting to comply with conflicting commands from three officers when he was hit by gunfire.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.