Jury awards $7.8 million to man shot by deputy

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — An unarmed man who was shot and partially paralyzed by a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy was awarded $7.8 million Wednesday.

A federal jury deliberated for about three hours before making the award in a lawsuit filed by 31-year-old William Howard, who was shot in 2011 in Cathedral City as he hid in a storage closet from deputies seeking him on a felony warrant for an armed robbery.

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Deputy Armando Munoz opened the closet door and shot Howard in the face, authorities said.

Howard’s attorneys said he was hiding because he was frightened and unarmed and didn’t want to confront police. The attorneys said Munoz shot within a second of opening the door.

Howard had a stroke, suffered damage to two main arteries and almost died, his attorney said. He is partially paralyzed and will need lifelong medical care.

At a news conference outside court, he said justice was done.

“It’s been crazy. It’s bad,” Howard said as he sat in a wheelchair pushed by his mother. Severe wounds were visible on his head. “I pray that no one has to go through what I’ve been through.”

County spokesman Ray Smith Spokesman tells the Riverside Press-Enterprise  that the county disagrees with the verdict but hasn’t decided whether to appeal.

Munoz maintained that Howard lunged at him, and the Sheriff’s Department continues to employ and stand behind the eight-year veteran.

“Deputy Munoz was required to make a split second decision in the defense of his life and the department is in support of his decision and actions,” a sheriff’s statement said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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