The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.1 million settlement for the mother of 21-year-old Connor Zion, who was fatally shot by award-winning Orange County sheriff’s deputy Michael Higgins.
The deadly shooting, which we reported about in March 2017, was caught on dash cam video.
Apparently for Higgins shooting Zion in the back 18 times wasn’t enough force.
After emptying his entire magazine, video shows Higgins take a running start then stomp Zion’s head three times as he lay dead, face-first on the ground.
Higgins can be seen on dash cam video initially shooting at Zion nine times.
After Zion falls to the ground, Higgins fires nine more shots until he is entirely out of ammunition.
Higgins then takes a running start and stomps Zion’s head three times, the video shows.
After reviewing the facts of the case in 2017, United States Court of Appeals Judge for the Ninth Circuit Alex Kozinski determined Higgins’ actions were excessive.
“A reasonable officer would then reassess the situation rather than continue shooting. This is particularly true when the suspect wields a knife rather than a firearm.”
“When police confront a suspect who poses an immediate threat, they may use deadly force against him,” Judge Kozinski wrote in his opinion, which can be read below.
“But they must stop using deadly force when the suspect no longer poses a threat.”
“While Higgins couldn’t be sure that Zion wasn’t bluffing or only temporarily subdued, Zion was lying on the ground and so was not in a position where he could easily harm anyone or flee,” Kozinski added.
Judge Kozinski stated a jury might find that Zion did not pose an immediate threat after he fell to the ground and that Higgins should have held his fire.
“Or, a jury could find that the second round of bullets was justified, but not the head-stomping,” he wrote.
It happened on September 23, 2013 when Kimberly Zion, Connor’s mother, received a call from her son’s roommate, who was concerned about the seizures Connor suffered the past few days.
She flew from Washington and arrived at Connor’s Laguna Nigel condo later the same evening.
When Kimberly arrived at the condo, the roommate spoke to her about whether or not Connor had been taking his prescription medications regularly.
That’s when Connor came downstairs with a knife and allegedly stabbed his roommate in the arm before his mother was able to wrestle the knife from her son’s hand and throw it into a patio chimney.
With her hand bloodied, Kimberly sought refuge at a neighboring condo.
At around 7:30 p.m., the Orange County Sheriff’s Department received a call about a man who’d been stabbed and was bleeding in the street.
Orange County sheriff’s deputies Michael Higgins and Juan Lopez arrived separately at the scene to find Connor had rearmed himself with a knife.
A chase ensued and deputy Lopez lost his footing and fell to the ground.
Connor got on top of deputy Lopez and stabbed him twice.
Deputy Higgins exited his patrol car and shot at Connor, who got up and ran before Higgins shot nine times.
Connor fell to the ground before Higgins fired nine more times.
Video shows deputy Higgins following up by kicking Conner, who was still moving, in the head three times rendering him unconscious.
Jerry L. Steering, the attorney for Kimberly Connor who filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month, said the videos show and act of revenge.
“We interviewed the same witnesses in the report,” Steering told the OCWeekly in 2017 before the settlement. “You can’t rely on what the DA or the Sheriff says. They always omit important facts.”
“Connor’s lying there disabled from two or three bullet wounds and gets pumped full of lead with three kicks to the head”
“That’s not an act of policing; that’s an act of revenge.”
Before the settlement was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors last week, a federal jury ruled in January that deputy Higgins used excessive force causing the death of Zion and concluded his family should receive $360,000 for damages suffered.
An additional $740,000 was added to the figure for the “tremendous amount of litigation” as the suit made it way through the legal system, Dan Stormer, the attorney for Kimberly Zion, who was arguing for a larger settlement, told the L.A. Times.
“You always have mixed feelings at the end of a case in which someone was killed,” Stormer said.
“One million dollars seems like a lot of money, but it’s money being spent because police chiefs keep allowing their officers to use excessive force.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s department later awarded Higgins a medal of valor for saving deputy Lopez’s life, according to the Orange County Register.