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Judges Rule Deputy Can Be Sued For Using Excessive Force In Fatal 2013 Shooting

LAGUNA NIGUEL (CBSLA) —   In 2013, O.C. Deputy Michael Higgins was hailed as a hero and given a medal of valor for saving his partner's life.

Today, a three-member federal appeals court ruled Higgins could be sued for excessive force for fatally shooting a knife-wielding suspect -- and stomping him in the head three times -- when he no longer posed a threat.

The court's decision was unanimous. It allows the mother of the late Connor Zion, then 21, to sue Higgings.

The court also made the unusual move of releasing video of the fatal shooting.

On the evening in question, deputies were called to the Zion home. He reportedly cut his mother and a roommate with a kitchen knife.

Neighbor Mike Shackelford said he witnessed Zion attack the duo outside the upscale condo. He called 911.

CBS2's Stacey Butler spoke to Shackelford who said he also witnessed Zion attack deputy Juan Lopez.

He said Zion started slashing and cutting at Lopez with a butcher knife.

"The kid came up [from] behind him and hit him," said Shackelford. "And then [the deputy] went down and he started stabbing him. Then the second officer pulled up and told him to stop. And he wouldn't."

Deputy Higgins called for back-up.

Higgins fired nine shots at Zion felling him. He then is seen firing nine more shots. Zion's mother said Higgings also kicked  Zion in the head three times.

One of the judges said, a jury could presumably believe the shooting was justified -- even after an additional nine shots but stomping the head seemed over-the-line.


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