Services Steve Martonick Contact Us Experience For Lawyers

We are located in Pullman and can represent you on felonies,
dui, traffic tickets, and clearing criminal records.
Printable Brochure
Martonick Law, 207 East Main, Pullman, WA 99163, Phone 509-334-4808

August 28, 2010, Moscow-Pullman Daily News,
By Sarah Mason Daily News staff writer

An excessive force case filed against Pullman Police Officer Ruben Harris was settled out of court at the end of July, ending with Pullman paying $25,500 from its risk pool to the petitioner who was Tasered by the officer in January 2009.

Wenatchee resident Ed Kavanaugh filed the complaint against Harris in September 2009, claiming the officer Tasered him without justification, his attorney Steve Martonick said. Though Martonick intended on bringing the issue to federal court in Spokane in October, the case came to an end early when case law involving the use of Tasers changed. “Case law changed on us in the middle of the stream,” Martonick said. “I was hoping to ask for punitive damages.”

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson said the $25,500 will be billed to the city’s insurance and will not likely drive up the city’s premium. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said current case law restricts law enforcement officers from using Tasers when a person is being “passively aggressive.”

In Kavanaugh’s case, he and a friend were stopped in Pullman by Harris because Kavanaugh’s friend reportedly vandalized a vehicle Martonick said. Video from a camera on the Taser gun recorded an officer asking Kavanaugh to sit on the ground. When Kavanaugh continued to stand and told the officer “wait a hot second,” the Taser was deployed and Kavanaugh fell to the ground.

Kavanaugh was then charged with malicious mischief, which was dismissed in court, Martonick said. While the Kavanaugh incident will not have any bearing on the Taser training Pullman officers will receive, the change in case law has already affected police training, Jenkins said.

“During our training it’s more than just being competent with the use of the device, it’s also training in areas of judgment when the particular use of force can be applied,” Jenkins said. Unfortunately the definition of “passive resistance” isn’t always clear, which is why recruiting officers whit “good judgment” is necessary, Jenkins said. “As far as the Taser goes it’s a device that allows our officers to resolve a situation that could result other wise in an injury of the officer or the person that we’re trying to detain or arrest,” he said.

So far in 2010, Pullman officers have used a Taser 10 times. In 2009, officers deployed their Tasers 22 times. Harris was never disciplined for the incident and still works for the Pullman Police Department.