A Silicon Valley engineer who will never walk again after being shot by a Placer County deputy sheriff has accepted a nearly $10 million settlement from the Northern California county. Now a paraplegic, the shooting victim is in constant pain.
The county, which agreed to the $9.9 million settlement in December–among the largest in its history –did not admit wrongdoing. The engineer and his family had filed a lawsuit alleging excessive force and negligence. The lawsuit states that the sheriff's department had not provided proper training for officers responding to calls involving the mentally ill.
Samuel Kolb, 50, of San Mateo, was on a ski vacation in Lake Tahoe in January 2018 when he had a mental health crisis. At Kolb's direction, his 16-year-old son called 911 so that his father could receive medical help. At no time did he say his dad posed any apparent danger. Kolb had experienced these mental health issues in the past, as he suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. His son told the dispatcher his father was in a "dream-like" state, pacing the cabin. The teenager also mentioned the two of them had smoked marijuana the previous night.
The dispatcher sent out an alert stating that the person was suffering a "possible 5150." That is a police code for someone with a serious mental health condition.
Holding a Barbecue Fork
When Deputy Sheriff Curtis Honeycutt arrived at the scene, both Kolb and his son were outdoors. It was cold, and Kolb was barefoot and had on pajama bottoms and a short-sleeved shirt. Kolb replied affirmatively when Honeycutt asked if he needed mental help. According to a lawsuit filed by Kolb, rather than securing Kolb for a mental health evaluation in the police vehicle as is standard procedure, Honeycutt told him to go back into the cabin.
While inside, Kolb grabbed a barbecue fork. As he raised it, Honeycutt began firing his gun at Kolb. Kolb's son testified that Honeycutt never told him to drop the fork or attempted to resolve the situation peacefully. Court records show the son yelled at Honeycutt, "Why did you shoot him? It was a fork, dude!"
While a Placer County Sheriff's Office Facebook post two days later states that Honeycutt was afraid for his life after Kolb stabbed his bulletproof vest with the fork, Kolb's son later testified no such stabbing took place and forensic evidence did not show any signs the vest had been stabbed. The teen witnessed the entire event.
Honeycutt retired in May 2020.
No Bowel or Bladder Control
At the time of the shooting, Kolb, a senior director at Survey Monkey, once led a very active life. He was a skier, a swimmer, a runner, and a tennis player. Now he is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Besides his chronic pain, Kolb has lost bladder and bowel control and cannot engage in sexual activity. He has battled several severe infections.
After the settlement was announced, Kolb said he would give the money back "with interest" if he could have his old life back and have full use of his body. "No amount of money makes up for that," he said.
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