FRESNO — A federal court jury on Friday awarded more than $330,000 to an off-duty Merced County sheriff's deputy who was hit by a Taser shot by Chowchilla police officers who were responding to a 911 hang-up call.
Jurors awarded Domingo Leyro, the sheriff's deputy, $139,000 each from Chowchilla officers Jeff Palmer and Tyler Hormel, who were sent to Leyro's home Aug. 7, 2007. In addition, the jury said Palmer, whose Taser hit Leyro, should pay an additional $7,500 in punitive damages.
The verdict came after a weeklong trial before U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno.
Testimony during the trial and a civil lawsuit filed by Leyro detail what happened: There was a 911 hang-up call from Leyro's Chowchilla home. When the dispatcher called the number back, Leyro's girlfriend, Giselle Perez, said everything was fine.
Still, officers were sent to the home. Hormel got there first, followed closely by Palmer.
Leyro's 14-year-old son, who was outside, said everything was fine. Leyro answered the officers' knock at the door and said the same. The officers then asked to talk to Perez.
When Leyro went to get Perez, the officers followed him into the house. The officers said they were concerned for Perez's safety, so they followed Leyro down a hall, ordering him to stop. They said he didn't obey. When he came back from getting Perez, he saw a laser light on his chest. After telling officers they did not have to use their Tasers, they fired.
Leyro was arrested and taken to the hospital. The Madera County district attorney's office charged him with resisting arrest. In Leyro's first trial, a jury could not reach a verdict. In a subsequent trial, he was acquitted.
In the meantime, Leyro lost his job as a deputy, a job he has since recovered. He had to cash out his daughter's savings bonds, sell off things he owned and use other cash to pay for his defense, which amounted to more than $40,000. After being cleared on the criminal charges, he filed the civil lawsuit in Madera County Superior Court. It was then moved to federal court in Fresno.