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Jury awards $2.5 million in wrongful death case

Washington County Sheriffs Office yet to decide whether to appeal ruling


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Holding a photo of Lukus Glenn, Hope hugs a supporter after a federal jury sided with the Glenn family against Washington County sheriff's deputies in a wrongful death lawsuit.Nearly a week after a federal jury unanimously decided Washington County Deputies Tim Mateski and Mikhail Gerba violated Lukus Glenn’s civil rights when they used deadly force against the Tigard teen, it remains unclear whether the Washington County Sheriff’s Office will appeal the decision.

On Aug. 30, the seven-member jury awarded damages in the amount of $2.5 million to the Glenn family in consideration of “the emotional pain and suffering experienced by Lukus Glenn and his parents,” according to the stipulations of the jury instructions.

According to Michael A. Cox, an attorney for the Glenns, damages will be paid by Washington County, not Gerba and Mateski themselves.

Earlier this week, Hope Glenn, Lukus’ mother, said she and her husband Brad had no specific plans for what they would do with the damages they’d been awarded. Money, she said, was never the aim.

“The only thing you can do is to fight by filing a lawsuit,” Hope said. “We don’t have the power to do anything else to try and hold accountability. And we needed accountability, for someone to stand up and say, ‘We messed up. How can we fix it?’”

She described the civil court proceedings as the hardest two weeks of her life since her son was killed in 2006.

Intoxicated and suicidal

The lawsuit focuses on the Sept. 16, 2006, shooting during which Hope called the police for assistance with her drunk and suicidal 18-year-old son. When sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene shortly after 3 a.m., Lukus was holding a knife to his neck and did not respond to the deputies’ repeated commands that he put down the weapon. After Tigard Police Officer Andrew Pastore’s initial attempts to control Lukus using a non-lethal beanbag shotgun, Mateski and Gerba fired on Lukus. The teen died in front of his parents.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Hope Glenn said a federal jury gave her family justice by siding with their wrongful death lawsuit against the actions of Washington County sheriffs deputies in the 2006 shooting of her son Lukus.An administrative review cleared Gerba and Mateski of wrongdoing.

Attorneys for the Glenn family argued the deputies had sufficient warning about the fact Lukus was intoxicated and suicidal, and that Lukus was not threatening injury to anyone but himself. Further, they charged deputies did nothing to de-escalate the situation, that they ignored their training on how to respond to a suicidal and intoxicated individual and that use of a Taser, rather than the beanbag shotgun law enforcement used, would have incapacitated Lukus without killing him. They also argued the deputies’ rationale for firing on Lukus was misguided — Gerba and Mateski stated Lukus was running toward the house where his family was, while attorneys claimed Lukus’ movement toward the house was a natural reaction to the beanbag pellets he was hit with.

Attorneys for the defense tried to prove Gerba and Mateski were responding to an urgent situation and behaved appropriately when confronted with a deadly weapon.

The Glenn family attempted to bring a wrongful death suit against the deputies and the county in 2008, but were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court later overturned Mosman’s decision and cleared the way for a civil lawsuit by questioning whether “escalating so quickly to deadly force was warranted” on the part of Gerba and Mateski. The seven-day trial began on Aug. 21, with Judge Mosman presiding.

Attorney Larry Peterson, who led counsel for the Glenns, has worked on the case for nearly six years. “The facts didn’t line up with what was being presented to the community by law enforcement,” he said.

Conflicting evidence

The seven-member jury deliberated for less than a day to decide whether the deputies’ actions violated Lukus’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against “unreasonable seizure” — according to jury instructions, “seizure” is understood to include shooting, either with beanbag rounds or “lethal force.” The jury was instructed to judge the actions of each deputy separately.

In order to award damages to the Glenn family, the jury also had to agree that then-Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon “ratified the acts” of the deputies, meaning Gordon either wrongly approved of the deputies’ conduct or purposely overlooked conflicting evidence in order to exonerate Gerba and Mateski.

Gordon signed the administrative review that cleared Gerba and Mateski of wrongdoing. Both Gerba and Mateski remain Washington County sheriff’s deputies.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Hope and Brad Glenn talk with the media in front of Portlands federal courthouse Aug. 30 after a jury sided with their wrongful death lawsuit against Washington County sheriffs deputies in the 2006 killing of their son Lukus.The Washington County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release within an hour of the verdict, emphasizing that the Washington County District Attorney’s Office had cleared Gerba and Mateski of criminal charges in the death of Lukus Glenn.

As of Tuesday, the sheriff’s office had yet to decide whether to appeal the federal court ruling, Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Sgt. David Thompson confirmed.

Michael Cox, one of the attorneys for the Glenn family, viewed this as an unprecedented ruling — according to Cox, no police officer in the state of Oregon has been held liable for a death in the line of duty.

“We view this verdict as justice for Lukus and Hope and Brad,” Cox said outside the courthouse after the ruling.

“It just feels like we finally got justice for Lukus, that we fought really hard for him for six years,” Hope said after the verdict. “We made that decision on that Sept. 16 they took our son away from us. We made that decision that we would fight with every ounce, with everything we had, to try to bring justice.”

“The jury saw the truth,” Lukus’ father, Brad, added.

“It’s justice, not only for Luke, but so that it doesn’t happen to another family, because it’s torture,” Hope said. “It doesn’t ever go away. Nothing will ever bring back Luke, but maybe somebody else’s kid won’t get shot.”