City Settles Lawsuit for Cop’s Excessive Force

The city of Alameda has settled a lawsuit that accused one of its officers of excessive physical force stemming from an arrest of a disabled Alameda resident in 2012. 

Attorneys Panos Langos and Susan Kang Gordon announced in a press release that their client Jeffery Navarro settled his civil rights case against the City and Sgt. Patrick Wyeth of the Alameda Police Department for $450,000. 

Navarro, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was stopped by police on July 27, 2012, after he was suspected of stealing a phone charger from a Verizon Wireless store at the Bridgeside Shopping Center. 

During the confrontation, Wyeth demanded Navarro stop, but the plaintiff did not, instead he rode off on a bicycle to a blocked alley a 15-minute video of the incident taken by the chest camera Wyeth was wearing shows. 

Once in the alley, Wyeth exited his vehicle and again instructed Navarro to get “on your stomach.” Before Navarro could comply, Wyeth struck Navarro with his baton knocking him to the ground. 

Navarro was hit several times and suffered multiple injuries, including left-arm and right-wrist fractures, as a result. His attorney said he had to stay at a rehabilitation facility for four months to recover from his injuries, according to the release. No stolen items were found and the charges were dropped. 

The city denied any fault or liability in the case defending Wyeth’s actions by stating he acted reasonably and lawfully when he detained and arrested Navarro, according to a press release from Interim Assistant City Manager Amy Wooldridge. She went on to say the city conducted an internal review of the incident but found no wrongdoing on Wyeth’s part, and his actions were consistent with the police department’s training and policy.

“The officer identified Navarro as matching the suspect’s description as given by a local store employee’s report of a theft,” she stated. “The officer gave chase and Navarro failed to heed the officer’s repeated verbal warnings to stop. Ultimately, the officer took reasonable and legal steps to arrest Navarro.”

The city cited wanting to resolve the matter as quickly as it could without much attention as the reason to settle the lawsuit.

“While the city believes the case is defensible, the city is aware of the recent incidences and public debate occurring throughout the country regarding the use of force by police officers,” Wooldridge stated. “Rather than subject the city, its police department and its taxpayers to what would likely be a long and costly jury trial, the city decided it was in its best interests to bring this matter to resolution now.”

The final settlement documents are expected to be completed within the next 60 days and will be a matter of public record at that time.   

The personal camera used during the video was purchased by Wyeth himself, not by the department. Wooldridge said the police department has been testing body cameras and is preparing to ask the City Council’s permission to purchase them for its officers. The department is expected to present a proposal to purchase the cameras, which are expected to cost around $423,000, at the June 2 council meeting.

Contact Ekene Ikeme at eikeme@alamedasun.com.