A teenager who contends Redwood City police officers fired a Taser at him and then taunted him has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against the city and the two cops involved.
Marcelo Perez was 17 when the 2010 incident occurred in downtown Redwood City, according to the suit, filed Dec. 31 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. He is represented by the law firm of John Burris, an Oakland-based attorney known for taking on police brutality and excessive force cases.
"This is a straight-up excessive force case," said DeWitt Lacy, the firm's attorney handling the lawsuit. "The officers did not need to tase him."
Redwood City spokesman Malcolm Smith said the city could not comment because of the pending litigation.
The suit alleges that Perez went into the Safeway store at 1701 El Camino Real with a friend to use the restroom at about 8:20 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2010. The friend stole a bottle of alcohol and as they left, employees went after the friend, saying they knew he had shoplifted. The friend threw the bottle to the employees and ran off.
Perez walked away in a different direction for a planned dinner with his mother at a nearby sushi restaurant, according to the suit. While approaching Middlefield Road, he was confronted by two police officers, identified only by their first initials and last names: R. Adler and S. Sysum.
When Perez reached into his pocket for his cellphone and speed-dialed his mother, Adler took out his Taser and told him to raise his hands, according to the suit. Sysum also pulled out his Taser.
The officers then forced Perez to the ground "using their body weight, and forced plaintiff's head to the sidewalk," the suit states. They demanded he put his hands behind his back, but Perez complained that he couldn't because his arms were pinned beneath him.
"At that point, the officers removed themselves from atop the plaintiff and each one fired a Taser dart into plaintiff," the suit states. "While the officers secured his hands, they taunted plaintiff, grabbed his hair and pushed his face into the sidewalk and injured his shoulder."
The teen's mother arrived and demanded that the officers give their names or badge numbers, but they refused, according to the suit. The teen was later taken to a hospital for evaluation.
The use of force when Perez was already pinned to the ground was unwarranted, Lacy said.
"I understand that officers deal with difficult situations and there are times when force is appropriate," he said. "This was not appropriate."
Although Perez was charged with theft, criminal conspiracy, battery on a police officer and resisting arrest, the charges were ultimately dismissed, according to the suit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages and attorneys' fees.
"Plaintiff suffered anxiety, embarrassment and loss of his sense of security, dignity and pride as a result of the unlawful arrest and use of force against him," the suit states.