Cops in court
Federal claims filed against local police
Federal lawsuits against two local law-enforcement agencies were filed the last week of August by men who say their civil rights were violated when they sustained injuries while getting arrested by police officers who, the suits charge, were overreacting.
On Aug. 30, 21-year-old Arash Akbarieh of Danville filed a lawsuit naming the city of Chico, Police Chief Kirk Trostle, Officer Mike Caldwell and 10 unnamed officers.
City Attorney Lori Barker said she was unsure if the city had yet been served with the suit and that she could not comment on it at this time. Chief Trostle was out of the office, and could not be reached for comment by deadline.
The suit says that Akbarieh was attending a house party on Feb. 9 at 345 Oak St. when officers arrived. It goes on to say that police ordered the partiers there to either go inside the house or leave the premises. Akbarieh walked toward the house and placed a closed bottle of alcohol, “of which he was lawfully in possession,” inside his jacket. According to the complaint, officers grabbed Akbarieh’s arm “and twisted it forcefully behind his back, immobilizing him and causing him great pain.”
The lawsuit says Akbarieh was “readily recognizable as a man of Middle Eastern, specifically Persian (Iranian) descent, and speaks English with his native Farsi accent.”
It goes on to say that Akbarieh “was not resisting and told Defendant CALDWELL in his accented English that he was over the age of 21 years and was not intoxicated.”
Akbarieh was forced to the ground by the officers, which resulted in the dislocation of his knee, the complaint says. The officers then allegedly forced Akbarieh to walk on his injured knee to a police vehicle where they threw him “face-first into the trunk of the vehicle,” injuring his face.
One of the officers, the complaint alleges, “demanded to know the Plaintiff’s national origin, asking him what kind of accent he has and then saying, ‘You don’t sound American.’”
Michael Haddad, Akbarieh’s Oakland-based attorney, said his client was in Chico visiting friends who go to school here. Haddad said he initially filed a claim against the city, which is required under state law before a lawsuit can be filed.
“When we file that claim, they have 45 days to investigate or respond however they want,” he explained. “It’s typical across the state that cities and counties automatically reject those kinds of claims if it’s anything more than a few thousand dollars.”
A hearing in January will set the trial date. No dollar amount is mentioned in the suit.
In the other federal case, a Glenn County beekeeper is seeking $1.5 million in damages from the Orland Police Department in connection with a 2011 arrest in which he charges that the use of force by officers caused him to suffer a collapsed lung. David Powell, 65, was arrested after getting pulled over at Papst Avenue and East Swift Street in Orland. He was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and disturbing the peace.
The suit says an officer “took him down face first into the pavement without warning, without any command and with great violence.”
An officer then allegedly kneed Powell in the back, causing a lung to collapse.
Powell’s passenger, Tammera Stedham, was arrested on charges of obstructing and resisting an officer. Powell’s attorney at the time was Dennis Latimer, who describes Powell as a “hard-working successful business man.”
“He was pulled over by a cop, who said [Powell] was not driving the truck,” Latimer said.
The officer recognized the woman and thought she was driving the vehicle, Latimer said. Glenn County Court records show that Stedham has been cited in the past for driving on a suspended license.
“He is one of Orland’s better citizens and I have great respect for him,” Latimer said. “They offered an infraction [for disturbing the peace] and we pleaded no contest. Otherwise it would have been too expensive.”
Powell was fined $474.