Local News

Thursday, Mar 06 2014 07:18 PM

Jury finds in favor of Kern County on three of four claims filed in David Lee Turner lawsuit

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    By NFL Photos via AP Photo

    This handout provided by NFL photos shows Cincinnati Bengals running back David Lee "Deacon" Turner in 1979.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A jury found in favor of Kern County on three of four claims Thursday following a six-day trial in Fresno during which attorneys representing the family of former NFL player David Lee Turner argued his civil rights were violated when he was shot and killed by a Kern County sheriff's deputy outside a convenience store in 2011.

Specifically, the jury found no violation of Turner's civil rights by either Deputy Aaron Nadal or Deputy Wesley Kraft when they detained him after midnight on July 10 outside the Fastrip on Niles Street and Mount Vernon Avenue, Nadal attorney Michael C. Kellar said. No violation was found to have been committed by Kraft when he searched Turner, nor was any violation found on the part of either deputy when both used batons on Turner in an attempt to make him comply with their orders.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether Kraft used excessive force and thereby violated Turner's civil rights when he shot him as Turner attacked Nadal.

Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner was pleased the county prevailed on three of the four claims.

"This was a case where (the plaintiffs) consistently demanded $8 million to settle," Goldner said. "Today they have received nothing for it, and we look forward to prevailing on the remaining claim of the case."

Kellar said Kraft and the county should have been absolved of liability in the remaining claim.

"I'm disappointed to the extent that the jury wasn't able to conclude the shooting was necessitated by Turner's aggressive behavior, his refusal to comply with the deputies' orders and his application of deadly force by wielding a bag with two 24-ounce beers that struck Deputy Nadal in the head," Kellar said.

He said there will likely be a retrial on the remaining claim unless a settlement is reached in the meantime.

The Turner family's attorney, Brian T. Dunn, could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday afternoon. The verdict was announced about 3:30 p.m.

The lawsuit, filed in August 2011, stated that the county, including Sheriff Donny Youngblood and other policymakers, had direct knowledge that Turner's detention and shooting were not justified, but afterward still approved of the deputies' behavior.

It also says the deputies "acted outside the scope of their jurisdiction and without authorization of law, acted willfully, maliciously, knowingly, with reckless disregard and callous indifference to the known consequences of their acts and omissions, and purposefully with the intent to deprive David Lee Turner Sr., of his federally protected rights and privileges. ..."

Nadal and Kraft had received reports of juveniles asking adults to buy alcohol for them outside the convenience store. They detained Turner at the scene and searched him.

The 56-year-old complied at first, but then became agitated and started walking away, deputies reported. A deputy struck him in the leg with a baton and, almost simultaneously, Turner punched at and missed the deputy.

Turner then raised the bag he was carrying that contained the two 24-ounce cans of beer and swung it down on Nadal's head, deputies said. Nadal went into a defensive position and Turner raised the bag again.

Kraft pulled his gun and fired twice. Turner was hit and died about two hours later at Kern Medical Center.

The shooting was determined to be within Sheriff's Office policy. Toxicology studies found Turner had both methamphetamine and alcohol in his body.

Turner was a star running back at Shafter High School, Bakersfield College and San Diego State University before playing three seasons with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals from 1978 to 1980. But he racked up a number of arrests in the years after he left the NFL, pleading no contest to receiving stolen property, felony possession of cocaine and a number of misdemeanors.

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