BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The attorney representing the former Taft Union High student who was shot in a classroom in 2013 is asking a jury to award $44,850,000 in damages to pay for the physical, mental and emotional pain the student suffered and will continue to suffer for the rest of his life.
Attorney Daniel Rodriguez named that figure during his opening statement in the damages portion of a trial in which he’s representing Bowe Cleveland in a lawsuit against Taft Union High School District.
Leonard Herr, the attorney representing the district, said Thursday there is no argument Cleveland suffered “horrific” injuries and should be compensated. Instead of naming a figure, he asked the jury to return a “reasonable” amount.
On Wednesday, the jury found district officials negligent, and that their negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Cleveland. In sum, the jury found the district ignored multiple warning signs regarding Bryan Oliver, a student who entered a science classroom armed with a shotgun and shot Cleveland.
Both Oliver and Cleveland were 16 at the time.
Rodriguez went into detail about the extensive injuries Cleveland suffered.
“In order to figure out what was taken from Bowe Cleveland, we need to figure out what he had,” the attorney said.
When flown to Kern Medical, Cleveland had a hole in his chest the size of a softball from the shotgun blast. His intestines protruded through a tear in the muscle wall.
The ribs on the right side of his body were crushed, his chest riddled with shotgun bullets, Rodriguez said. He suffered massive blood loss and spent a couple weeks in a chemically induced coma.
Doctors managed to save his life, but his ordeal had only just begun, Rodriguez said.
Cleveland remained on a number of medications. Some were powerful opioids for the pain. Others were tranquilizers and sleeping pills. Still others were antibiotics to prevent infection as the lead pellets — dozens of which doctors were unable to remove — worked their way out of his body.
Cleveland underwent 31 surgical procedures in the year after the shooting. He had to take 33 different medications.
When Cleveland returned home, he was unable to do anything for himself, Rodriguez said. His father had to help him walk to the bathroom and clean himself.
The Cleveland family eventually moved to Paso Robles. Cleveland felt as if people were staring at him, and he wanted to go someplace where no one knew him, according to Rodriguez.
Cleveland currently works in construction for a fiber-optic cable company. He used a jackhammer.
Every morning, Rodriguez said, Cleveland takes 2,000 milligrams of ibuprofen before going to work. Later in the morning, he takes another 2,000 milligrams.
He knows ibuprofen isn’t good for his liver, Rodriguez said, but the alternative is opioids. He doesn’t want to become addicted.
Rodriguez said that, physically, this is the best Cleveland will ever be. His condition will only worsen as he ages.
The attorney told the jury they will hear from dozens of doctors and therapists who have determined Cleveland suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.
Certain noises trigger reminders of the shooting.
Cleveland worked at a bowling alley and one day a balloon popped. He ran to a back room, curled up in a fetal position and almost cried, Rodriguez said.
The shooting continues to haunt Cleveland, Rodriguez said. He has nightmares that Oliver, serving a prison term of 27 years and four months, will be released early and come looking for him to “finish the job.”
“I’m always running from something in my dreams,” Cleveland has testified.
The damages portion of the trial is expected to last several days.