A California man was just awarded nearly $575,000 after he says his civil rights were violated by gaggle of homophobic police officers.
Gustavo Alvarez of Palo, Alto reached a settlement with the city to receive $572,500 after police kicked down Alvarez’s front door, pointed a gun at him, beat him until he bled, knocked loose one of his teeth, and then arrested him without probable cause back in February.
Mercury News reports:
On Feb. 17, 2018, Officer Christopher Conde approached Alvarez in the driveway of his mobile home in Palo Alto, according to the suit. Conde told Alvarez he had observed his vehicle on the road earlier that day and was detaining him for driving with a suspended driver’s license, the 77-page complaint states.
When Alvarez pressed the officer, he admitted he could not confirm Alvarez was behind the wheel of the vehicle. Hearing that, Alvarez entered his home and closed the door behind him, according to the lawsuit.
Conde then called additional officers to the scene, informing them that Alvarez was wanted for driving with a suspended license and resisting an officer, the suit states.
When the four additional officers arrived, the situation escalated into a “full-fledged attack on Alvarez and his family’s residence,” the suit states.
Alvarez was taken a jail and charged with driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, and resisting an officer. After spending two weeks in custody, he was released and the charges were dropped after it was determined there was no evidence to support them.
Alvarez says he believes the assault was motivated by antigay animus. As part of the settlement, the officer who led the attack will must also attend an LGBTQ awareness law enforcement course and, upon completion, lead a two-hour LGBTQ awareness training program for all the other officers in his department.
San Jose attorney Cody Salfen says she believes the case will lead to better relationships between police and the communities they serve.
“This case isn’t going to change the culture within the department overnight,” she said. “But this settlement is definitely a starting point. It sends a message to every one of those officers that there is a problem and the time to change it is now.”
Meanwhile, the city and police department issued a statement saying they only settled with Alvarez to “minimize the burden and expense of federal litigation.”
“While the City and Police Department sharply dispute the vast majority of Mr. Alvarez’ claims and have deep concerns about Mr. Alvarez’ continuing criminal behavior, the City believes that this resolution is in the best interests of all involved,” the statement said.
Alvarez’s suit is at least the fourth time in recent years that the Palo Alto Police Department has been accused of using excessive force.