Restaurant owner sues City of Tacoma for $23M over alleged police negligence

Sep 7, 2023, 5:12 PM | Updated: Sep 8, 2023, 11:22 am

Tacoma police, South King County...

Officers on the scene of a recent shooting in South King County. (Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Image courtesy of KIRO 7)

A restaurant owner paralyzed from a shooting last June is suing the City of Tacoma and is seeking $23 million in damages, saying the shooting occurred due to negligence from one of their police officers.

Mason Taylor, who was in illegal possession of a handgun, shot and paralyzed Jay Barbour June 23, 2022 while the two were driving in their cars. Taylor and his passenger were unhappy about the slow pace Barbour was driving with, according to a press statement from Barbour’s attorney, Mark Lindquist.

Barbour ended up pulling away and turning left. Taylor then shot at Barbour twice. One of the bullets severed Barbour’s spine and left him paralyzed from the chest down.

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Now, Barbour and Lindquist, who is a former Pierce County prosecutor, are claiming an officer recovered the same gun from the same suspect at a party five days before he shot Barbour. Specifically, the officer placed the gun on the curb and left it there so Taylor could pick it up after the officers departed. The suspect initially told officers the gun belonged to his “brother.”

According to police reports cited in Lindquist’s press statement, an officer told Taylor, “I would place the gun on the curb of M Street. Then, I instructed them to pick up the gun after we left, meaning his brother would pick it up thinking the gun would be on the curb until his brother showed up to pick it up.”

Evidence suggests the same handgun was also used in another shooting incident on May 16, 2022.

At the time of all three shootings, Taylor was 20 years old.

“In Washington, the people passed an initiative that makes it illegal for a person of Taylor’s age to possess a handgun except at the person’s own home, property, or business,” Lindquist’s press release notes read.

“In my many years as a prosecutor, I can’t recall ever seeing an officer give a handgun at the scene, let alone a suspect who was underage and legally couldn’t possess a gun in the first place,” Lindquist said to KIRO Newsradio. “Giving a gun back to a minor who is a suspect in a shooting is beyond negligent. It’s beyond reckless. It’s crazy.”

Barbour, who owns and operates the Mediterranean Gyro Grills in Federal Way and Tacoma, and his family have suffered emotionally, physically, and financially, Lindquist’s statement says. Barbour has been in and out of hospitals and requires complicated home care.

“It has been so devastating,” Barbour said to KIRO Newsradio. “My life has shattered.” He added that he’s no longer the independent person he was and he isn’t able to do “75% of what he used to do.”

Lindquist said Barbour and his family are seeking justice and accountability for what happened.

“I would love for (the Tacoma Police Department) to revise and retrain their officers. Nobody should have a gun underage,” Barbour said to KIRO Newsradio. “So, that would be a message for the police department and all the police departments around because if that officer didn’t give (back) the gun, I would not be in a wheelchair.”

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The city of Tacoma released a statement saying their thoughts are with Barbour and they are currently reviewing the claim.

“If there’s active litigation occurring, I don’t believe we can actually comment on the circumstances of the case,” Detective William Muse, public information officer for the Tacoma Police Department, said to KIRO Newsradio.

Steve Coogan is the lead editor for MyNorthwest. Sam Campbell is a reporter for KIRO Newsradio.

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Restaurant owner sues City of Tacoma for $23M over alleged police negligence