The jurors said “no reasonable officer could have believed the shooting was lawful”
The family of Landon Nobles, a Texas man shot in the back by police in 2017, was awarded $67 million in damages by a jury and is now at risk of seeing that dollar amount reduced by a federal judge.
The night of May 7, 2017 is a day that changed the life of Belinda Nobles-Thompson and her family when Landon Nobles, 24, was shot in the back by Austin Police officers in Austin, Texas.
“Everybody is still going through it even though it’s five years later,” Nobles-Thompson said of her deceased brother.
The night of the incident, police responded to reported gunshots at a nightclub, after a woman on the scene told responding officers a man fired shots in the air. She described the shooter as a Black male wearing blue shorts and a white shirt with an Air Jordan logo on it.
Police, using surveillance video, singled out Nobles as fitting the description given by the woman and other witnesses at the Pecan Festival where the sounds of gunshots emanated. As one of the officers approached Nobles, he ran away.
According to the Travis County District Attorney’s investigation into the shooting, one of the officers claimed they saw Nobles with a gun as the foot chase continued, and as the pursuit neared its final moments, one officer pushed his bike into the fleeing Nobles and knocked him to the ground. At that point, the officer testified last December, he heard a “clanking” and “clearly saw a gun,” before the officers fired five gunshots into Nobles’ back when he got back to his feet. The DA’s report says a gun was found near Nobles’ body where he was shot.
“Shot in the back, not in the side, not while turning, not while spinning and there’s no gunfire that these witnesses said they saw,” said Edmund “Skip” Davis, one of the attorneys representing the Nobles family.
In November 2018, the district attorney cleared the officers in the shooting, declaring the shooting justified because the officers believed their lives were in danger.
In April 2019, Nobles’ family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against officers Sgt. Richard Egal and Cpl. Max Johnson, who fired the gunshots, and the city of Austin, Texas. In December 2021, a jury decided the city of Austin, Texas, and officers Egal and Johnson must pay the Nobles family $67 million in damages.
The jurors said “no reasonable officer could have believed the shooting was lawful” as the reason for the large award, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“The jury based their decision off, it was unjust, and they proved a point in my opinion, this has to stop,” said Nobles-Thompson.
“A jury returned a calculated verdict that said, each plaintiff gets $20 million and Landon Nobles estate gets roughly $7 million,” said Johnson of the jury award. He went on to explain each of Nobles’ two sons would get $20 million, Nobles’ mother would get $20 million, and the remainder would go to Nobles’ estate.
On June 1, federal Judge Mark Lane called the award “wildly excessive,” as reported by KXAN, and now attorneys for the Nobles family and the officers sued are at a stalemate after failed negotiations over whether the $67 million award stays or gets reduced.
“They clearly did calculate what they considered the value of Landon Nobles life,” said Davis.
The judge will rule on any reduction of the award by the end of this month.
Money aside, the family of Landon Nobles says no dollar amount can replace him. “If I can bring my brother back, that’s what I want over any amount of money,” Nobles-Thompson said of her deceased brother.
Landon Nobles leaves behind two young sons who now must grow up without their dad, Nobles-Thompson says. “Now they’re started to ask about their father, they want to know more. My brother did music, so my nephew is the older one, he wants to start researching about his father,” she said.
The only thing left for the Nobles family is to await the judge’s decision, and if the $67 million is reduced, their attorneys say they may appeal the decision.
“We’re in the Fifth Circuit here in Texas, and that’s an extremely hostile venue for plaintiffs who bring claims against the government,” said Davis.
“We’re still not done … we’re still in this fight,” said Nobles family attorney, Charles Medearis.
The judge’s decision is expected by June 30.