Texas VerdictsFind out about the most important recent Texas cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties. Subscribe to VerdictSearch for access to all Texas verdictsPricing Options
Disabled man was shot by police after argument with mom
United States District Court, Northern District, Dallas
back; other-gunshot wound; other-injury to colon; other-aggravation of pre-existing condition; abdomen-perforatio;n mental/psychological-post-traumatic stress disorder; gastrointestinal/digestive-diarrhea
Civil Rights – 42 USC 1983; Government – Excessive Force; Intentional Torts – False Arrest; Civil Rights – Police as Defendant
Bobby Gerald Bennett v. Cardan Spencer and Christopher Watson,
September 15, 2015
Bobby Gerald Bennett (Male, 52 Years)
Law Offices of Don Tittle, PLLC;
Bobby Gerald Bennett
Gary Durham; Economics; Dallas,
TX called by:
Don Tittle ■ Lige Rushing; Jr., M.D.; Internal Medicine; Dallas,
TX called by:
Don Tittle ■ Jerry Staton; Police Practices & Procedures; Del Valle,
TX called by:
City of Dallas, Texas
Jason G. Schuette;
City Attorney’s Office;
City of Dallas, Texas ■ Kevin B. Wiggins;
White & Wiggins LLP;
Christopher Watson ■ Mark E. Goldstucker;
Law Office of Mark E. Goldstucker;
Cardan Spencer ■ Sol Villasana;
White & Wiggins LLP;
Shortly before noon on Oct. 14, 2013, plaintiff Bobby Bennett, 52, disabled, had an argument with his mother at her house and threatened her. Bennett is mentally ill. His mother called Dallas Police, and Officers Cardan Spencer and Christopher Watson were dispatched to the scene. By the time the officers arrived, Bennett had taken a chair from his mother’s garage, rolled it into the middle of the cul-de-sac in front of the house and sat down. Wilson and Spencer drove up and exited their vehicle. They approached Bennett and drew their guns. Bennett rolled the chair backward and stood up holding an open pocket knife in his right hand. Spencer fired four shots, one of which hit Bennett, in the abdomen. Bennett was taken by ambulance to the emergency room and was charged with aggravated assault on a public servant. Watson prepared the incident report on which the charge was based, and which said that Bennett had moved toward the officers with the knife. On the same day, a neighbor of Bennett’s mother provided police with footage of the incident, which his surveillance camera had recorded. Several days later, the neighbor contacted news media outlets and provided the footage to them, and police dropped the charge against Bennett. After an Internal Affairs investigation and criminal investigation, Spencer was terminated for violating department policies on use of deadly force and dealing with mentally ill persons. Watson received a 15-day suspension for untruthfulness in a sworn affidavit and violating department policy on dealing with mentally ill persons. Bennett sued Spencer, Watson and the city for excessive force and false arrest, both under 42 USC section 1983. The city was not served. The plaintiff’s police practices and procedures expert opined that Spencer’s use of deadly force was not justifiable and that the officers violated numerous policies and procedures. He also opined that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest Bennett for aggravated assault on a public servant, and according to plaintiff’s counsel, the expert also opined that there was substantial evidence of untruthfulness on the part of the officers. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the surveillance footage showed that Bennett did not raise the knife, move aggressively or advance on the officers. Plaintiff’s counsel further argued that the defense experts declined to give an opinion on whether the shooting was justified. The officers denied liability. Spencer maintained that Bennett’s right hand moved in a threatening manner and that Spencer feared for his and Watson’s safety. Both officers maintained that Bennett made verbal statements indicating noncompliance with their commands. To the best of Spencer’s counsel’s recollection, Spencer never said that Bennett came toward the officers. Watson further asserted that the inaccuracies in his sworn statements and incident report were the result of faulty memory caused by the stress of the volatile situation to which the officer responded. Watson’s law enforcement expert substantiated these contentions, Watson’s counsel said. Spencer’s police practices and procedures expert opined that, if the jury believed that Bennett’s actions constituted a threat to the safety of either officer, then the shooting was justified. The defense said that, although the footage did not show Bennett raising the knife, the camera was far away from the incident, and the footage was grainy.
Bennett was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. He sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen, resulting in severe gastrointestinal complications, including the loss of significant portions of his colon, as well as daily diarrhea after most meals. He also claimed post-traumatic stress disorder and aggravation of his pre-existing paranoid schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder. He was in the hospital for about two weeks, including several days in intensive care. The bullet remained lodged in his back for about a year, after which doctors surgically removed the bullet. The plaintiff’s paid or incurred medical bills were $155,059.34. His expert on future medical care, an internist, opined that Bennett would need about $133,224 in future care. Bennett also sought damages for past and future physical pain and mental anguish and physical impairment, as well as punitive damages. Given Bennett’s paranoia, being shot by police has caused Bennett even more than the usual emotional turmoil that one would expect, counsel argued.
The case settled for $1.6 million before trial. The settlement was paid by the city.
David C. Godbey
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s, the city’s, Spencer’s and Watson’s counsel.