Lukus Glenn verdict of $2.5 million ‘moment of accountability’ for Washington County

From The Oregonian, August 30, 2012

Moments after a federal judge read the jury’s $2.5 million verdict, Hope Glenn turned away from the counsel table and clung to her husband, in tears.

Jurors decided Thursday that Washington County sheriff’s deputies violated the Fourth Amendment rights of 18-year-old Lukus Glenn when they fatally shot him in 2006. The unanimous verdict also faulted retired Sheriff Rob Gordon, who approved of the shooting after an administrative review.

The teen’s parents, Hope and Brad Glenn, first brought the wrongful death lawsuit against the county and its deputies, Mikhail Gerba and Timothy Mateski, in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman dismissed it on summary judgment in 2010. On appeal, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a trial in the case, saying the facts were in dispute and the court was not allowed to act as fact-finder on summary judgment.

Attorney Michael Cox said the Glenns in 2006 didn’t get a fair, transparent investigation into the shooting of their son.

In the face of “untold grief,” Cox said, the parents continued seeking justice for their only child, whose death they witnessed in front of their Metzger home Sept. 16, 2006.

But jurors this week confirmed what the Glenns knew from the start, he said.

“They could see with their own eyes that this was wrong,” he said.

The trial provided Washington County “a moment of accountability,” Cox said. “This is a call for change.”

The shooting occurred after Hope Glenn called 9-1-1 just after 3 a.m. reporting her son was drunk, armed with a pocketknife and threatening suicide.

Minutes later, deputies arrived to find Lukus Glenn outside the family’s Metzger home, holding the knife to his neck. With the teen at gunpoint, deputies shouted commands.

When Glenn did not drop the knife, a Tigard police officer shot him with beanbag rounds. Gerba and Mateski then opened fire after determining that Glenn was moving toward the house, where his parents and grandmother were inside.

Hope and Brad Glenn watched the shooting from the entrance to their home, while two of Lukus Glenn’s friends watched outside, from behind the deputies.

Larry Peterson, an attorney for the Glenns, argued to jurors that a number of mistakes led to a “false narrative” by police attempting to disguise an unreasonable shooting.

William Blair, attorney for the county and its deputies, argued the shooting was tragic but justified. The deputies acted in response to the threat Glenn presented to himself, to his family and friends and to them, he told jurors.

The trial lasted seven days. A seven-member jury left the courtroom on the 16th floor of the federal courthouse in Portland late afternoon Wednesday. About eight hours of deliberation later, the Glenns had validation.

When the verdict was read, the family had about a dozen supporters in the room.

Hope Glenn teared up, covered her mouth with her hand and cried. Her lawyers hugged her. She turned away and reached for her husband, seated behind her.

Speaking through tears later, Hope Glenn said the moment “felt like we finally got justice for Lukus.”

The verdict doesn’t bring back their son or take away their pain, she said, but she hopes it changes the outcome for other families who call the police in moments of need.

“It’s hard to fight against the police,” she said.

Brad Glenn said witnessing their son’s killing fueled their resolve to see the case to trial.

“We knew the truth,” he said.

His wife added that they drew strength from one another.

“We had each other,” she said. “Brad’s my rock.”

At every turn, she said, they never forgot their purpose.

“We knew we’d just continue to fight for Lukus,” she said.

The two officers were stoic after the verdict was read and were quickly ushered out of the courtroom by their attorneys. Sheriff Pat Garrett was also in the courtroom.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said it has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.