Man slammed into wall by King County deputy in 2009 dies; coroner rules it a homicide

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SEATTLE (AP) — A man who suffered a catastrophic brain injury after a King County sheriff’s deputy slammed him into concrete wall in 2009 has died. And a Thurston County forensic pathologist has ruled it a homicide.

The Thurston County Coroner’s Office announced Friday that it was investigating the death of Christopher Sean Harris, 36, when a forensic pathologist performed an autopsy and determined Harris died of “acute and chronic pneumonia of the lungs, due to medical sequelae, due to blunt head trauma” and determined that his manner of death was “homicide.”

The  office noted the coroner/medical examiner uses the “homicide” designation when one person intentionally performs an act that leads to the death of another person.  “It does not mean that the death itself was intentional and it does not mean that a crime necessarily occurred,” the office said.  “Determination of whether a crime occurred is not made by the coroner/medical examiner.”

In 2011, King County agreed to pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Harris’ wife, Sarah, after she claimed King County sheriff’s deputy Matthew Paul used excessive force and was negligent.

Christopher Harris ran from deputies who mistook him for a suspect in a fight in May 2009. After a couple of blocks, Harris stopped and turned, and the deputy slammed him head-first into a concrete wall of the Cinerama movie theater in Seattle. The violent tackle was captured on surveillance video.

King County prosecutors did not file criminal charges against Paul, and he was cleared by an internal investigation.

Sarah Harris issued the following statement Friday night:

"Though nothing can change the awful reality that Chris and I endured the last six years – first losing any semblance of the future that we envisioned together, and now burying my husband far too soon – there is some small solace in knowing that the authorities agree that Chris’ death was clearly wrong.  I want to thank everyone who has offered us help, prayer and kind words over these years; you have made this terrible time a little more tolerable through your kindness."

Sim Osborn, a lawyer for Sarah and Chris Harris, issued this statement:

"While we mourn Chris’ passing, I applaud the bold announcement from the Thurston County Coroner, ruling Chris’ death a homicide. I have a hard time reconciling the fact that Chris is dead because a law-enforcement officer chased down an innocent man and shattered his life. If there has ever been evidence that demands for justice in holding our protectors accountable for egregious behavior, this is certainly a compelling case."