TACOMA, Wash. - A restaurant owner who was left paralyzed after being injured in a drive-by shooting in 2022 has filed a claim against the city of Tacoma for $23 million.
According to the claim filed by attorney Mark Lindquist on Thursday, a Tacoma police officer acted unreasonably, negligently, and dangerously when the officer left a gun on a curb for the shooting suspect or anyone else to pick up, days before the incident.
The claim states that on June 23, 2022, Jay Barbour, who owns and operates the Mediterranean Gyro Grills in Federal Way and Tacoma, was shot while driving to his restaurant.
According to Lindquist, he was driving slowly, because he was hauling supplies. The suspect, identified as Mason Taylor, was driving behind Barbour and pulled up alongside him – frustrated with how slow he was driving.
After exchanging words, Taylor shot Barbour twice. One bullet severed Barbour’s spine and left him paralyzed from the waist down.
"It has changed in every single way. My life has changed every single second, every single thing," said Barbour. "I used to not worry in the past because I was on my legs. I could face anything in life. But now, actually, I have a lot of fear providing my kids and my wife a better life, and educations and safety."
Police return gun to suspect 5 days earlier
The claim says five days before Barbour was shot, Tacoma Police officers recovered the suspect’s handgun after a different shooting at a party, but allegedly returned the gun to him by leaving it unattended on a nearby curb.
While investigating the party shooting on June 18, Taylor denied shooting a victim and told police the gun they recovered belonged to his "brother." When asked where his brother was, Taylor replied, "I don’t know. I’ll have to call him," according to the claim.
The officer allegedly spoke to his supervising sergeant at the scene, and the officer left the gun with Taylor to return to his "brother." The claims states the officer specifically placed the gun on a nearby curb and left it there for Taylor to pick up after the officers left.
"This gun was literally given back to the wrong hands, and it was predictable something like this would happen," said Lindquist.
The claim says this information can be found in the police report filed by the officer:
"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."
The claim filed against the city claims ballistic evidence indicates Taylor used the same handgun to shoot Barbour.
More ballistic evidence shows that Taylor allegedly used the same gun in a third shooting incident on May 16 of 2022 in Federal Way.
Victim's family believes the suspect's charges are too lenient
Regarding the shooting that left Barbour paralyzed, Taylor was charged with first-degree assault with a firearm enhancement and drive-by shooting. The claim states Taylor got his drive-by shooting count and the firearm enhancement dropped after a plea bargain.
Barbour and his family say the reduced sentence was too lenient, compared to the amount of suffering they have faced emotionally, physically and financially.
The claim against the city says Barbour has been in and out of hospitals and requires complicated home care.
Lindquist says details of the damages will be laid out more specifically at a later date.
In the meantime, Lindquist has filed a public records request for the body camera footage from the night officers spoke to Taylor at the party shooting.
"Justice will come in our civil case," said Lindquist. "Jay and his family want justice. They want accountability. And they want to make sure police officers don’t return guns to criminal suspects ever again."
The City of Tacoma released the following statement on Thursday:
"Our thoughts are with Jay Barbour and his family during this difficult time. We are currently reviewing this claim to determine appropriate next steps."
A claim is a legally-required step ahead of filing a lawsuit against a government agency.