A jury has awarded $1.1 million to a Palmdale teenager who, while holding a toy gun, was shot in the back by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.
Deputy Scott Sorrow used excessive force when he shot William Fetters on May 10, 2009, a jury found Wednesday. Fetters was 15 at the time of the shooting.
"He's had a lot of emotional distress being the victim of a wrongful shooting," said Fetters' attorney, Bradley Gage. "He's hopeful that the verdict will send a message to the Sheriff's Department that it needs to protect the community better."
Fetters has recovered from his injury and is finishing high school, Gage said.
Fetters was on his bicycle playing with other youths when Sorrow and his partner, Andrew Campbell, approached in a patrol car. According to Gage, the teen complied with a command to drop his weapon, but Sorrow shot him anyway.
The Sheriff's Department disputes that account. The gun looked like a real handgun, and Fetters was pointing it at the deputies when he was shot, spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
"Nobody wants this to happen with a 15-year-old kid on a bike. This kind of result — nobody wants that," Whitmore said. "Having said that, the entrance of the bullet was indicative of the young man holding out his arm as if he were pointing the weapon at the deputy."
Whitmore said the department strongly disagrees with the judgment and may appeal. Sorrow still works as a patrol deputy.