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Tears trailed down Kristine Biggs Johnson's face Thursday as she watched the dash-cam video play on her attorney's computer. She watched herself try to drive her truck around the police cars that had cornered her in a Davis County cul-de-sac.
She watched as Morgan County Sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Peay raised his gun and fired a single shot which struck her in her left eye.
Two years after the 2012 traffic stop, Johnson said she watches that video and remembers nothing about the low-speed police chase or the officer shooting her eye out.
"It's pretty awful," Johnson said. "It's like watching a stranger."
The California woman is now suing the police officer and Morgan County, arguing in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court that Peay "utilized unreasonable, improper, unnecessary, and excessive deadly force" in the Nov. 24, 2012 shooting, which was deemed unjustified by prosecutors.
During Thursday a news conference announcing the lawsuit, Johnson told reporters that she has no memory of the traumatic event, saying doctors believe either head trauma or alcohol use were to blame.
The last memory the California woman has of that November night was when she was in Evanston, Wyoming. She had her dog, her possessions and a bottle of vodka in her truck "I hadn't opened it and I had no plans to," she recalled Thursday.
When Morgan County sheriff's authorities encountered her as she drove through their county, she was drunk and wouldn't pull over after a deputy tried to stop her for having a broken headlight.
Johnson sped away, beginning a 40-mile chase into Davis County. At some point during the chase, officers placed spike strips on the road, which ripped off three of Johnson's tires. The chase ended at a cul-de-sac near 700 E. Cottonwood near South Weber.
Johnson made a U-turn and struck two police cruisers that had followed her. A third cruiser also blocked her exit, the lawsuit states. Dashcam video shows Peay getting out of his cruiser and approaching Johnson's truck as she tries to back out of the cluster of cars. Then, as the truck pulls forward a few yards and hits one of the cruisers, Peay's gunfire can be heard.
The bullet struck and blinded Johnson's left eye.
Johnson's attorney, Robert Sykes, said Thursday that Peay was never in the direct path of Johnson's truck and that he was in no danger when he shot her.
"Watching that video, I don't see them in any danger," Johnson said. "I see I'm misbehaving, but I think it was uncalled for to shoot."
During the news conference, Johnson removed her eye patch and showed her damaged eye to reporters.
"That's the consequence of improper use of deadly force," Sykes said.
Johnson said her message to police was: "That I'm sorry. That my actions that night were what they were. I'm hurt that they shot me."
Sykes said this was "quintessential excessive force," noting that the Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings found the shooting unjustified, although no charges were filed against Peay.
But attorney Peter Stirba, who represents Morgan County in the case, told The Tribune, "Our officers were thoroughly justified in doing what they did."
Stirba said Johnson's blood alcohol level was nearly four times the legal driving limit that night, and that she was driving recklessly and putting innocent people on the highway at risk.
Stirba said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling supports their position a ruling which found that officers in Arkansas were justified in shooting and killing a man and his passenger who had led officers on a high-speed chase in 2004. The high court ruled that the use of deadly force was not unreasonable because of the driver's "outrageously reckless driving [that] posed a grave public safety risk."
Stirba said Rawling's unjustified ruling will inadmissible in the civil suit. He added it was a ruling he disagreed with.
"Quite frankly, we think he was wrong," Stirba said. "Looking at [Rawlings'] opinion, it's not very lengthy, has very few facts. So we just don't think it was an adequate investigation."
Rawlings ruled in 2013 that the shooting was unjustified, but he filed no charges because "a unanimous jury would not convict Sergeant Peay of a crime when presented with all of the evidence."
None of the Morgan officers were injured that night.
Johnson, now 43, pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of failure to respond to an officer's signal and class B misdemeanor driving under the influence. She was sentenced to three years probation.
The eye injury has required "tens of thousands of dollars in reconstruction surgery," the lawsuit states. Sykes said the county government does not pay medical costs for such events, even if it's an unjustified shooting.
Johnson is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, according to the lawsuit.
Tribune reporter Erin Alberty contributed to this story.