The family of a top Navy surgeon is speaking out about the night they say he was beaten by a Chula Vista police officer.
In October 2008, following a Jimmy Buffet concert, members of the Harris family said their good time turned into a nightmare.
"I was terrified for my husband and horrified for my children," said May Harris, the alleged victim's wife.
In a parking lot jammed with traffic, Dr. Eric Harris, chief spinal surgeon at Naval Medical Center San Diego, got out of his sport utility vehicle to help create a space to merge.
May Harris said Chula Vista police Officer Fred Krafft yelled at her husband to get back into his SUV. She said her husband muttered a curse word under his breath and headed back to the SUV.
"The officer sped up and caught up with him. My husband didn't notice him," May Harris said.
She said Krafft came up behind her husband.
"[His face] was repeatedly slammed violently against the side of the car, right in the passenger side window," said Harris.
She said her husband's face was slammed three or four times as their children watched from the backseat.
"I just saw surprise in his eyes," said son Cameron Harris, who was 12 years old at the time.
"I was sad and scared, and I was screaming," said the couple's daughter, Haley, who was 8 at the time.
May Harris called 911, but it was her husband who faced charges that included resisting arrest.
Prosecutors declined to pursue the case, but the Harris family filed a lawsuit.
"He couldn't sleep. He had night tremors and he'd wake up screaming. He had so much anxiety being around people we had trouble going out," said Harris.
Soon after the incident, Eric Harris was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
The Chula Vista City Attorney's Office declined to comment, citing pending litigation. However, in court filings, it claims the incident was "caused
by the plaintiff's own negligence, fault, reckless or unlawful conduct."
The family's attorney, Mary Frances Prevost, said witnesses will side with them.
10News learned Krafft was one of 9 officers named in a police brutality suit settled for $85,000 in 2009.
"What it boils down to is an angry rogue cop taking out -- whatever is on his mind -- on an innocent bypasser," said Prevost.
"He's supposed to protect and serve. He didn't. Instead, he abused," said Harris.
10News learned Krafft remains with the Chula Vista Police Department.
In a statement, Chula Vista Police Captain Gary Wedge said:"The Chula Vista Police Department takes seriously its obligation to protect the rights of all persons, including an individuals right to pursue civil action when they feel wronged. However, the simple fact that an officer has been named in a lawsuit does not indicate fault or wrongdoing, even if that officer has been named in a prior lawsuit for which a settlement was reached. Unfortunately, the very nature of police work means that lawsuits will be filed. While the police department cannot discuss details of personnel matters or pending litigation, every use of force is thoroughly reviewed, and every allegation of misconduct is investigated. We believe the actions of our officer and the department were appropriate and justified."
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