Court rejects appeal from innocent bystander shot by El Cajon police

Hit by stray bullet while sitting in dentist chair

Paula Brown was shot in the chest in 2004 while she sat in her dentist's office. The stray bullet came from an El Cajon police officer who was pursuing a murder suspect.

Police were pursuing a man in connection with a murder in San Diego. The suspect drove a Jeep at officers, prompting the officers to open fire in a crowded shopping center. The suspect was killed, but one of the bullets hit Brown in the chest.

"I froze," Brown recalls. "I felt something but I saw my shirt explode out.

Brown has had to foot the bill for her huge medical expenses. She filed a lawsuit against the city of El Cajon, the police officer who shot her and his partner. Lower courts, deciding the officers who shot her were protecting their own lives and immune from civil liability, ruled in favor of the officers. Brown appealed her case all the way to the California Supreme Court, which she just found out rejected her case. That means she won't be compensated after a nearly decade-long fight.

"I understand that the officer who shot me that he was in fear of his partner’s life," said Brown, "but what about the life of the innocent bystanders that were just there?"

Brown says her medical costs are more than $48,000. Her lawyers’ fees nearly $500,000. She says she will likely be forced to file bankruptcy.

A spokesperson for the city of El Cajon told 10News city officials cannot comment on the case until they receive a final ruling from the state supreme court.

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