SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Northern California man who was left paralyzed after he was slammed to the ground during a traffic stop won a $20 million settlement, one of the largest in the state’s history, officials announced Tuesday.
Gregory Gross, an Army veteran who lives in Yuba City, sued the police department in 2022 after police officers used “pain compliance” techniques and expressed disbelief when he repeatedly cried out, “I can’t feel my legs.” Police officers also dismissed Gross when he said, “I can’t breathe,” while being held facedown on the lawn outside a hospital, video released by Gross’s lawyers shows.
Gross was accused of driving drunk and causing a slow-speed collision in April 2020.
Gross was left with a broken neck, and he underwent two surgeries to fuse his spine. He said the officers’ use of force left him unable to walk or care for himself, and he now needs round-the-clock nursing care for the rest of his life.
“We are not against the police,” said Attorney Moseley Collins, who represents Gross. “We are for the police, but we are against police brutality when it occurs.”
The settlement is among one of the largest police misconduct settlements in California history. In May, the state agreed to pay $24 million to the family of a man who died in police custody after screaming, “I can’t breathe,” as multiple officers restrained him while trying to take a blood sample.
As part of the settlement, Yuba City will also start randomly auditing officers’ bodycam footage and reviewing use of force incidents, police Chief Brian Baker said. He apologized to Gross at a news conference Tuesday.
“You’ve been in my thoughts since this tragedy was brought to my attention,” Baker said to Gross. “On April 12th, 2020, we missed the mark. And for that, Mr. Gross, I’m sorry.”
Gross said the police reforms are important to make sure what happened to him isn’t repeated. He’s donating $20,000 to California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation.
“I’m glad that they did something and took it serious,” Gross said Tuesday. “I couldn’t understand how someone could be in a position of authority and was acting like that and treating another human being like that.”
Deronda Harris, Gross’ partner of 13 years, said she’s grateful to see the settlement finalized.
“It’s nice to finally have closure,” Harris told The Associated Press.
Gross also filed separate lawsuits in 2021 against Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville, along with the University of California, Davis Medical Center, alleging their actions contributed to his condition. Collins declined to comment on the status of the lawsuits, citing confidentiality.
In the police body camera video supplied by Gross’ lawyers, an officer is seen twisting Gross’ already handcuffed arms and forcibly seating him on a lawn. At one point, officers slammed him on the ground and held him facedown as Gross repeatedly cried out that he couldn’t feel his legs and he couldn’t breathe.
“Mr. Gross, we are done with your silly little games,” an officer tells him.
In September 2021, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law barring police from using certain facedown holds that have led to multiple unintended deaths. The bill was aimed at expanding on the state’s ban on chokeholds in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.