A Howard County officer has been placed on administrative duty as police investigate claims made in a $4.8 million lawsuit that accuses him of pointing a gun at a man while drunk and off duty.
Han Sa Yu, 41, of Ellicott City is suing county police, Officer Christian Kim and other officers whose names Yu does not know. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Howard County Circuit Court, and also accuses police of covering up the April incident. The claims in the suit include assault, infliction of emotional distress — which Yu said led to medical expenses and loss of income — negligence and negligent hiring, retention and supervision by the county police.
According to the suit, Yu went to the Honey Pig restaurant in the 10000 block of Baltimore National Pike at 1:45 a.m. April 18 to meet friends. He went inside but didn't see them, and came out to find a group of men standing together. His friend was watching what seemed to be an argument, Yu said during an interview Wednesday at his lawyer's Columbia offices.
"I said 'What's going on?'" he recounted Wednesday, when suddenly "he [the officer] just popped out of nowhere and put a gun at me. I was so shocked, I couldn't say anything." Yu identified the officer as Kim in the lawsuit.
Yu said the man swore at him and said, "I'm a cop." Yu said he smelled "massive alcohol breath" on the man. Someone in the crowd said "Call the police," he said, and the man lowered the gun, placing it behind his back as about 10 police cars arrived.
Yu said the man seemed irrational to him, even as officers arrived. Police took the man aside for a time. After about 15 minutes, a female officer confronted Yu, he said, saying that she had found no gun on the man.
"Why are you escalating the problem?" Yu said he was asked. He then refused to speak to her, he said, except to say he would file an internal affairs complaint with police.
Since the incident, he said, he is constantly fearful, has trouble sleeping, is afraid of driving and hasn't worked much at his taxicab company in Virginia. "I don't feel like doing anything," he said, and has become afraid of police cars. The 41-year-old decided to sue, he said, "because I don't want a second victim," and to recover lost income.
Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said she could not comment on a lawsuit, but did say the police officer, who joined the force in January 2006, is on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Kim is credited with apprehending a bank robber as a rookie officer.
The suit alleges the department knew that Kim "has developed a reputation for using excessive force" as a police officer. Yu's lawyer, Tae H. Kim, who is not related to the officer, has requested a jury trial. He sent a letter to county officials Aug. 20 notifying them of his intent to sue.
The officer, the suit alleges, was not arrested, charged or disciplined for his behavior, and is still carrying his departmental weapon.
Tae Kim said they filed suit because "I'm not satisfied with the pace of the investigation." He said hopes the suit will spur action, adding that police have a restaurant surveillance security tape that might show aspects of the incident.
In previous editions of this article, the name of the man suing Howard County Police was spelled incorrectly due to incorrect information from his lawyer. His name is Han Sa Yu. The Sun regrets the error.