Deputies: We were just defending ourselves

As far as the two Butte County sheriff’s deputies accused of police brutality in the July 2000 arrest of Paradise resident Andy Fulton Jr. are concerned, they’re the ones, not Fulton, who were in danger that evening.

Sheriff Scott Mackenzie declined to discuss the arrest when Fulton filed his federal lawsuit June 15, but deputies Grant Kyle and Bryant Lange stated in an April 11 preliminary hearing on the case that they used only “minimal force” to make Fulton submit during an arrest at the Gold Country Casino.

The deputies were called to the scene last July 21 by casino security guards, who reported that Fulton, his father and stepfather were drunk and uncooperative and refusing to leave.

According to a transcript of the hearing, Kyle said that Fulton took several swipes at him and Lange, was “extremely combative,” and tried to take Lange’s gun from his hip holster.

A well-placed security camera caught the entire incident on tape, from the time Fulton and his family entered the casino to the eventual scuffle they had with the deputies. Fulton argues that the tape proves that the deputies went overboard trying to subdue him, but the deputies insist on the opposite—that it was Fulton who continually escalated the situation.

Fulton needed 11 stitches in his eyebrow the day after the incident and charges that he suffered permanent brain damage from being hit with the deputies’ baton. Pictures taken of him the day after the incident show a deeply bruised face and eyes.

But Kyle said he and Lange had no choice but to hit Fulton with their batons—although they insist they hit him in the hand and arm, not the head.

“It is standard procedure for a fight, a use-of-force policy,” Kyle said at the hearing. “If the subject uses his fist, we first try to use a chemical spray, or we use our baton.”

Kyle said that Fulton hit him several times in the head with a closed fist before he struck back with his baton. The videotape of the incident illustrates Kyle’s claims, although its difficult to see if any of Fulton’s flailing swings actually hit either deputy.

The deputies also charge that Fulton’s father, Andy Fulton Sr., and stepfather, Fidel Molina, urged Fulton to keep fighting, even as they were handcuffed and prone on the asphalt.

“…[F]rom the beginning of contact, they were screaming, ‘Fucking pig, kick their ass, don’t take their shit,'” Kyle testified.

Lange testified that he and Kyle approached Fulton with guns drawn when they first arrived “because it appeared that this was a hostile” situation, and it appeared that Fulton was reaching for what the deputies feared was a weapon under the seat of his truck.

Kyle said that he received several loose teeth, a contusion to the back of his head and jaw and damage to his rib cage in the attack. He also said that he was “physically exhausted” from the arrest, and that much of the pepper spray he and Lange sprayed on Fulton Jr., Fulton Sr., and Molina rubbed off into his face in some of the close-contact struggle.

"My health, at that time, was deteriorating, based on the pepper spray and the duration of the fight," Kyle testified. "I had to again strike Mr. Fulton several times … to try to gain compliance."