HOUSTON — A Houston-area deputy has sued the family of a man he fatally shot following a 911 call last year, alleging he and others who responded were not properly warned about the danger they faced.
In a lawsuit filed this week, Harris County sheriff's Deputy Brady Pullen is seeking up to $200,000 from Carmina Figueroa, a relative of Kemal Yazar, for injuries he suffered, including a concussion and a broken nose.
Officials say Yazar confronted EMS workers and deputies who responded to a call from a home in the Houston suburb of Katy. Figueroa is listed as the home's owner.
Pullen's attorney, Mark Long, did not immediately return a call or email seeking comment on Friday. Court records did not list an attorney for Figueroa, who also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
"The Harris County Sheriff's Office is not the plaintiff or the defendant, meaning the official actions of the HCSO are not in question and neither party is acting on behalf of the HCSO in this court case. Therefore the HCSO is in no position to comment on the contents of the lawsuit," sheriff's office spokeswoman Christina Garza said in an email Friday.
At the time of the shooting, Sheriff Adrian Garcia told reporters that EMS called in deputies for help after being confronted by Yazar. Pullen and another deputy initially tried to subdue Yazar with Tasers but ultimately had to use their firearms.
An investigation by the sheriff's office of the shooting is still ongoing.
In his lawsuit, Pullen alleges that Yazar had been taking bath salts — a synthetic hallucinogenic drug — for days and that Figueroa knew Yazar was such a danger, she evacuated children who were in the home at the time.
Figueroa "had a duty to exercise ordinary care in adequately (warning) others that her resident or guest Kamal Yazar posed a violent threat to others due to his ingestion or smoking of 'bath salts' or some other mind altering substance, and to make the premises safe," according to the lawsuit.
Pullen is seeking damages for past and future medical expenses, mental anguish and loss of past earning capacity.
Legal experts say lawsuits like the one filed by Pullen are extremely difficult to win because there is a belief the jobs of police officers, firefighters and other first responders are dangerous to start with.
Joel Androphy, a Houston attorney not connected to the case, said he doesn't believe the lawsuit has any merit.
"If you allow suits like this to go forward, it will have a chilling effect on all people that want to make 911 calls because they will be afraid if something happens to the police officer," Androphy said.
Rick Mumey, a lawyer and former Houston firefighter, said he doesn't believe the lawsuit will make people think twice about calling 911.
"If you're a police officer and you are responding to a crime or a shooting ... there is the potential of you getting hurt doing it. And so there is a (high) bar to bringing a suit against an ordinary citizen in those circumstances ... an extremely dangerous hazard that the home owner is aware of and they are present when you arrive and they fail to warn you," he said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juanlozano70
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