A man who was run over by a Tacoma police officer in 2021 during a downtown street-racing event filed a lawsuit Friday against the city and the officer, who is no longer with the department.
According to the lawsuit, Tacoma police officer Khanh Phan arrived at an illegal street-racing event in January 2021 and drove through a crowd of pedestrians, running over the plaintiff, 24-year-old Anthony Huff-McKay, of Tacoma. Phan was on duty and in his patrol car at the time.
Multiple videos taken at the event showed the patrol vehicle was surrounded by dozens of people at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and South Ninth Street. Some members of the crowd pounded on the SUV and blocked its path, and Phan briefly attempted to reverse before driving forward through the crowd.
The suit claims Phan met attendees gathered in the intersection and tensions rose as he attempted to push through the crowd using his patrol car. The complaint states that instead of reversing his vehicle and de-escalating the situation, he drove through the crowd and struck multiple people, who fell to the ground.
In a statement submitted to investigators, Phan wrote he was paralyzed by fear, according to The News-Tribune.
“At that moment I was certain that I was seconds away from dying at the hands of the angry crowd if I remained there any longer,” Phan wrote in 2021. “The mob clearly wanted to get at me and beat me, or set my car on fire with me inside.”
The lawsuit said Huff-McKay suffered broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, a torn ACL and a torn meniscus. Huff-McKay and his lawyer allege Phan negligently breached an officer’s standard of reasonable care and that his driving was highly reckless and constituted deadly force.
Austin Neff, Huff-McKay’s attorney, said in a news release that the lawsuit underscores concerns about police conduct. Neff argued the incident would have been preventable with proper instruction and training, which is “currently lacking” in the police department, according to the release.
The city of Tacoma declined to comment Monday evening, saying it does not comment on pending litigation.
“It comes down to this,” Neff said in the release. “Officer Phan chose to use deadly force against a crowd of unarmed pedestrians. That decision forever changed Mr. Huff-McKay’s life.”
In 2022, the Pierce County prosecutor declined to charge Phan with any crimes after the Pierce County Force Investigation Team investigated the incident.
“We will not file criminal charges against any of the involved officers, nor would we file charges against anyone, police officer or not, who had been similarly unlawfully restrained and attacked by a violent mob,” Prosecutor Mary Robnett said in a letter to Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore.
Huff-McKay was charged with unlawful imprisonment, second-degree malicious mischief and obstructing a law enforcement officer following the incident. His trial in that case is set for May.
Phan retired from the department in 2022. Huff-McKay, according to the lawsuit, continues to suffer from pain, emotional trauma and loss of enjoyment of life.
“As the patrol car hit me, I was overwhelmed by a fear for my life,” Huff-McKay said in a news release. “That memory haunts me continually, impacting my daily life.”
The suit requests monetary damages to be determined at trial.