A man who suffered a catastrophic brain injury after a King County sheriff’s deputy slammed him into a concrete wall after a foot chase in 2009 has died.
Christopher Sean Harris, 36, died Thursday night in his Olympia home, according to Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock. A pathologist performed an autopsy on Harris on Friday and determined he died as a result of acute and chronic pneumonia. The report said the pneumonia was a consequence of blunt head trauma.
The death was ruled a homicide, Warnock said. However, that doesn’t determine whether a crime has been committed.
According to a news release from Warnock’s office, homicide is one of five categories coroner’s and medical examiner’s use to explain the cause of death of a person. The other four categories are natural, accident, suicide and undetermined. The coroner/medical examiner uses the homicide designation when one person intentionally performs an act that leads to the death of another person. It does not mean that the death itself was intentional, the news release says.
In 2011, King County agreed to pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Harris’ wife, Sarah, after she claimed Deputy Matthew Paul used excessive force and was negligent. It was the largest individual award ever paid by the county, and came several days into the family’s trial against the county.
Sim Osborn, an attorney for Sarah Harris, told the Seattle Times, “The family, they’re destroyed.”
Harris was walking down an alley in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood May 10, 2009, when a witness identified him to Paul and another deputy as a suspect in a bar fight that had continued at a nearby convenience store. Harris ran from deputies, and after a couple of blocks, he stopped and turned. The deputy then slammed him head-first into the concrete wall of a movie theater. The violent tackle was captured on surveillance video.
The two sides disputed exactly when the deputies identified themselves as law enforcement officers. The deputies were dressed in black tactical uniforms, not traditional deputy uniforms, and attorneys for Harris’s wife argued Christopher Harris likely didn’t realize the deputies were officers.
At the time, Harris lived in Edmonds, where he worked at a restaurant.
County prosecutors didn’t file criminal charges against Paul, and he remains on the force. An internal Sheriff’s Office investigation determined Paul delivered a “hard shove” that fell within legal bounds.
Sheriff John Urquhart said in an email to the Times that he was sorry to learn of Harris’ death.
“My sincere condolences to his family on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office,” he said.