ATLANTA — A man was awarded $100 million by a jury after an Atlanta police officer tased him in 2018, causing him to fall and hit his head on cement. He now requires 24/7 care and is paralyzed.
The jury ruled the officer used an unreasonable amount of force. The Georgia NAACP said this is the largest settlement they've ever heard of, especially where the victim is still living. They believe this ruling could make it easier for law enforcement agencies to be liable in cases of excessive force or police brutality.
The encounter between APD officer Jon Grubbs and Jerry Blasingame, who was 65 years old at the time, started with panhandling.
“He was panhandling and the police, of course, rolled up on him, chased him and then ran after him," Ven Johnson said, who is Blasingame's lawyer.
Blasingame's legal team said the officer struck him in his back as he was about 10 feet away.
“Since he's not under arrest, he can run or do whatever he wants to do," Johnson said. “Jerry then fell again, face forward, face planted in smashing his head, multiple facial fractures, brain injury and broke his neck.”
Body camera footage shows Blasingame unconscious and motionless.
Grubbs' POST record shows he's been on the force since 2014 and is still employed with APD.
“Do you really think that it's a good idea to have somebody that's $100 million liability on your force still interacting with the citizens?” Gerald Griggs said.
Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs, a lawyer, believes the verdict may cause APD to look at its hiring and training of officers.
“Given that there was no call for service on this situation, they could have handled it differently," Griggs said. It sends a strong message from the citizens that live in the northern district of Georgia, a part of which is in Fulton County in Atlanta, that they're sick of this and they want change.”
APD didn't want to comment on the officer or verdict, which changed a man's quality of life forever.
“We're really, really happy for Jerry, because what we now see as a quadruple pathetic, in other words, a quadriplegic with just a little bit of movement in his arms, hopefully now he will have money to fund his care so that he can live the rest of his life as best as he can possibly live," Johnson said.
The jury found both the City of Atlanta and the officer guilty of violating Blasingame's civil rights. They awarded $60 million from APD and $40 million from Grubbs.
Lawyers said Blasingame already has $14 million in medical expenses.