$85M Awarded to the Family of a Man Who Died During SD Deputy Custody
March 20, 2022
SAN DIEGO, California—A jury has awarded $85 million to the family of a man who suffered a mental health crisis and died when he was restrained by San Diego County sheriff’s deputies back in 2015.
According to the lawsuit filed back in 2015, 32-year-old Lucky Phounsy, dialed 911 on April 13, 2015, when he began suffering a mental health crisis. He was experiencing delusions that someone was going to hurt him, his wife, and their two children.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they immediately began acting “unnecessarily confrontational, aggressive, and profane,” making the situation worse.
Phounsy—who called 911 for help—became “frightened and confused” when deputies tried to handcuff him. There was no attempt to deescalate the situation.
When Phounsy became increasingly distressed, the responding deputies shocked him multiple times with a stun gun, punched him, struck him with a baton, hogtied him, and then took him away in an ambulance.
On the way to the hospital, Deputy Richard Fischer held Phounsy down.
On an entirely different issue, Deputy Fischer pleaded guilty to assault and battery of 16 women that took place between 2015 through 2017 back in 2019. The women accused Fischer of groping, hugging, or trying to kiss them.
Fischer is currently serving a 44-month prison sentence starting back in 2019, including four felony counts of assault under color of authority, two misdemeanor counts of assault under color of authority, and one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment, according to the New York Post.
Phounsy’s heart stopped while he was being held down by Fischer on the way to the hospital. Although he was resuscitated, Phounsy died days later.
The coroner determined Phounsy’s death was accidental and due to a brain injury caused by his heart stopping, following his confrontation and restraint, but that the injuries from the deputies’ action did not cause the heart attack, reports The Post. An autopsy also found Phounsy had a “stimulant drug-related psychotic state.”
Phounsy’s family disputed the coroner’s findings.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, the federal jury concluded the two-week negligence and wrongful death trial. The large compensation is one of the largest civil verdicts against the county in recent history, according to the Los Angeles Times.