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Excessive Force Police Shooting Results in $8,000,000 Settlement via Zoom

In 2011, the Tacoma Police Department dispatched over 20 vehicles on a 15-minute low-speed chase after Than Orn, a Cambodian refugee who emigrated to America. Than was heading home from work when an unmarked police car tried to pull him over for driving with his headlights off. Afraid and unsure what to do, Than continued home to give the car to his wife so she could make it to her upcoming work shift. He observed every traffic rule and drove at a lawful speed. However, Than was met by a blockade of police vehicles at his apartment complex. As Than drove slowly around the barricade, Officer Kristopher Clark ignored orders to stay inside his car and unloaded his magazine at the SUV. Than was paralyzed after being struck by multiple bullets. His vehicle then crashed into a barrier, causing it to ignite.

Attorneys Loren Cochran of Cochran Douglas, PLLC, and Darrell Cochran and Tom Vertetis of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, represented Than during the first federal jury trial conducted via Zoom. They used an animation to illustrate Officer Clark’s excessive use of force. 

Than’s case was at a standstill for nearly a decade. His health declined, requiring a double-leg amputation due to repeated infections from his injuries. Finally, his trial was set for November 2020 but would be conducted via Zoom. The change in medium created an unprecedented challenge for the attorneys: keeping a jury’s attention while presenting their case, knowing they would be distracted at home. Preparing for the looming question – why didn’t Than just stop and comply – Loren, Tom, and Darrell organized a team of experts, including a ballistics specialist and DK Global, to create an animation describing the circumstances that led to the shooting as well as Than’s permanent injuries.

The presentation began with a satellite view of the city and showed where officers first saw Than. The animation outlined Than’s drive while audio and captions of the police chase ran in the background. Then, a 3D reconstruction of Than at his apartment complex illustrated how he carefully maneuvered around the police barricade. Next, Officer Clark was shown disregarding orders, exiting his vehicle, and firing his gun 11 times at Than’s SUV. Using the ballistics expert’s data and direction, the bullets’ trajectories were simulated, hitting Than’s neck and spine. Than’s car ignited as he lost control and crashed through a fence. Finally, Than’s damages and surgeries were recreated to show the devastation he suffered due to Officer Clark and the Tacoma Police Department’s excessive force.

Loren, Tom, and Darrell played the animation for the jury during the virtual trial. After watching the recreation, the judge and jury agreed Officer Clark’s use of force was negligent and excessive. As a result, the judge ruled that Than’s fourth amendment right was violated. Loren, Tom, and Darrell met with the Defense on the eighth day of the trial and agreed to an $8,000,000 settlement, freeing Than of all criminal charges.

Loren A. Cochran is a founding partner at Cochran Douglas, PLLC in Tacoma, Washington, representing survivors of sexual abuse, civil rights violations, catastrophic injuries, and wrongful death matters. Loren has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” and a “Top-Rated Attorney” by Super Lawyers since 2014.

Tom B. Vertetis is a managing partner at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, and has earned the Martindale Hubbell Peer Review Rating of “AV Preeminent.” In addition, Tom was recognized as “Washington Trial Lawyer of the Year” by the American Board of Trial Attorneys for representing the victims of catastrophic injuries, medical malpractice, sexual abuse, and civil rights violations.

Darrell Cochran is a partner at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, and has served as President of the Washington State Association for Justice. Darrell has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2001 and has attained numerous multimillion-dollar awards for his clients.

"I don't know if we would have been as nearly as successful if we didn't have those demonstratives. To me, that was the silver bullet that really brought this case around to a very successful resolution."
Thomas Vertetis – Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC
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