SAN ANTONIO, TX — A woman is being sued by a police officer after she dialed 9-1-1 for help. The officer, who was injured in a confrontation after responding to the call, claims the woman did not provide enough information about the suspect. Critics say that a lawsuit against a person calling 9-1-1 could have a chilling effect on people who turn to the police for help.
In December 2012, officers responded to a call at Ms. Figueroa’s home at the request of EMS. Her relative, Kemal Yazar, had been smoking bath salts for days and was mentally unstable. According to the lawsuit obtained by KXAN, a local NBC affiliate station, she had called 9-1-1 requesting EMS services. Mr. Yazar confronted EMS workers when they arrived. They in turn called deputies for help. Officers tased him to no avail, and Deputy Pullen ultimately shot and killed Mr. Yazar after he reached for the deputy’s gun. During the scuffle Deputy Pullen sustained injuries including a broken nose and a concussion.
KENS-5 in San Antonio Texas reports that deputy Brady Pullen is suing homeowner Carmina Figueroa over injuries he sustained while responding to a 9-1-1 call she placed.
His attorney, Mark Long, says in the lawsuit that Ms. Figueroa “had a duty to exercise ordinary care in adequately (warning) others that her resident or guest Kamal Yazar posed a violent threat to others due to his ingestion or smoking of ‘bath salts’ or some other mind altering substance, and to make the premise safe.”
A witness questions if the use of force was even justified.
“At no moment did Kemal assault the officer,” said witness Corina Padilla. “An unarmed man, a family guy, father and husband of three girls was killed. He had no criminal record. He was self-employed in import-export of very expensive rugs from Turkey and Persia.” She says that Yazar had drunk some tea that caused him to have hallucinations, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Deputy Pullen has filed the lawsuit as an ordinary citizen, not through the police department. As Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia made clear “as trained public servants, our presumption when receiving and responding to emergency calls is that there is an element of danger present. As public servants, it is our duty to respond to those calls as quickly as possible.” Garcia also added that this case will be “decided by others who have jurisdiction over such matters.”
The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing. While in the lawsuit, Deputy Pullen is seeking over $200,000 for past and future medical expenses, mental anguish and loss of past earning capacity.
Legal experts are divided on the merits of the case. Attorney Joel Androphy is on one side, saying that there is a belief that police officers, fire fighters and other first responders are dangerous jobs to begin with, and injuries are to be expected. Due to the fact that officers are on the homeowners property in the course of their employment, not due to a social setting, is what makes cases like this hard to win. He adds, “if you allow suits like this to go forward, it will have a chilling effect on all people that want to make 9-1-1 calls because they will be afraid if something happens to the police officer”.
Attorney Rick Murney a lawyer and former fire fighter says, “if you’re a police officer and you are responding to a crime or a shooting…there is the potential of you getting hurt doing it. And so there is a (high) bar to bringing a suit against an ordinary citizen in those circumstances…an extremely dangerous hazard that the home owner is aware of and they are present when you arrive and they fail to warn you.” He doesn’t think this case would deter anyone from calling 9-1-1.
Criminal Attorney Brian Wice told KPRC that the lawsuit was “a slap in the face to first responders everywhere.”
Both sides do agree that this is a precedent setting case. That means should this case not be thrown out for lack of merit, there will be a lot more of these cases popping up. It would also raise the question of if an officer gets hurt on your property if you didn’t call them for help. Should a homeowner be responsible for the injuries of someone he didn’t want there in the first place? What if the homeowner isn’t aware of the extent of the danger in a given situation? It would seem more appropriate for this to be handled by workers compensation than in suing the homeowner. There seems to be more questions raised by allowing this case to go forward, not to mention exposing the vulnerability of homeowners in a time when they are calling for help.
Of course the Sheriff is advising residents to continue to call 9-1-1 should they need. He added that deputies are trained to expect dangerous circumstances when they arrive to a scene. Which would seem to contradict the lawsuit wherein the officer didn’t know he was arriving to a dangerous situation…
Let Deputy Pullen’s attorney know exactly what you think of his lawsuit:
Attorney Mark Long: 512-329-5005
Let the Sheriff’s department know if this is the type of officer you want on the force:
Harris County Sheriff’s Department: 281-463-2648