Jury awards $33.5M to parents of Barstow man killed by deputy

BARSTOW, Calif. (KABC) -- The family of a Barstow man shot and killed by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy was awarded $33.5 million in damages.

Nathaniel Pickett, 29, was shot by a deputy following a struggle in November of 2015 outside a Barstow motel. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the sheriff's department in 2016.

The jury found Wednesday that Deputy Kyle Woods unreasonably detained Pickett, delayed medical aid and was negligent in use of deadly force.

The jury award included $15.5 million in compensatory damages and $18 million in punitive damages.

The sheriff's department issued a statement saying they "strongly disagree with the jury's decision, especially after the District Attorney ruled that under the facts, circumstances and the applicable law, our deputy was legally justified in using deadly force to protect himself."

The statement went on to say that the department will discuss appealing the award.

Pickett's family said he suffered from mental illness and called his shooting unjustified.

"My son did not commit a crime. He was not armed," said his mother, Dominic Archibald. "He was 100 feet from his front door. All he wanted to do was go home."

At the time, the sheriff's department said Woods was forced to shoot Pickett after he began striking the deputy 10 to 20 times and refused to stop after resisting arrest. Woods claimed Pickett was on methamphetamine, which later turned out to be untrue, and tried to grab his gun. Woods said that is when he fired two shots.

After the shooting, Woods did not call for medical attention because he claimed that he did not realize that he had shot Pickett.

After deliberating for about two and a half hours, the jury rejected Woods' story.

During the trial, the plaintiffs proved by way of the physical, forensic, and medical evidence that Woods had not been struck 10-20 times by Pickett and that Pickett was not grabbing Woods' gun at the time of
the shots.

Surveillance video shows Pickett tripping as he ran from the deputy. In the distance, it appeared to show the deputy on the ground struggling with him.

Attorneys for the family said there was more to the surveillance video that wasn't shown.

"In watching this video over and over we have discovered there are seconds missing. Seconds missing during the critical scenes where this officer and Mr. Pickett are actually engaged physically and where we believe Mr. Pickett was shot," attorney Sharon Brunner said when announcing the wrongful death lawsuit in 2016.

About a year after the shooting, the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office completed its investigation and found that Woods was legally justified in using deadly force to protect himself and others. Woods continues to work for the sheriff's agency.

Pickett's mother is an army officer who moved to California after two tours overseas. She has since started a foundation in her son's name to help other families in similar situations.

"It's been difficult for me as an experienced and educated person," she said. "I just can't imagine what families with no resources are truly going through."

Attorneys for Pickett's family said Deputy Woods was involved in another shooting involving an unarmed man in January, but that man survived.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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