By Hector Gonzalez
May 6, 2015 -- A Santa Monica man will file a claim against the City over his alleged rough treatment by local police during his arrest at a local park last month, his attorney said Tuesday.
“We’re going to move forward with the lawsuit, absolutely,” said Justin H. Sanders, an attorney representing Justin Palmer, a black Santa Monica resident who alleges officers used excessive force while arresting him on April 21 at Virginia Park (Attorney Claims “Super Aggressive” Santa Monica Officers Roughed Up Client, April 29, 2015).
According the legal process, Palmer must first file a claim with the City before he can sue. Officials have 45 days to notify claimants whether the City will take action or reject the claim.
Sanders said he was completing the claim form Tuesday.
“I have it typed up now,” he said.
Palmer remains in “pretty bad shape” since his encounter with two Santa Monica officers sometime before 11 p.m. at the electric vehicle charging station at Virginia Park.
“He’s been to the doctor numerous times -- six, seven times so far. He hasn’t been able to return to work. In fact, he’s at the doctor’s right now with his family,” said Sanders.
Sanders said his client is a married father of four, a college graduate with a degree in anthropology and no criminal record.
On Monday, Santa Monica Deputy City Attorney Terry L. White said his office will not file any charges against Palmer stemming from the arrest.
“After careful examination of the circumstances, a decision was made not to file charges against Mr. Palmer,” White wrote on the City’s website.
Several factors played into the decision, said White, including “Palmer’s belief that being present in the parking lot did not constitute a park closure violation.”
Also, signs at the entrance to Virginia Park’s parking lot “did not clearly indicate that the parking lot is included in the park closure ordinance,” he said.
In addition, there was “a question concerning when Mr. Palmer arrived in the parking lot and when officers made their initial contact with him,” said White.
Sanders last week said his client arrived at the charging station around 9:30 p.m., well before the posted 11 p.m. closing time.
“All he wanted was a bit of charge so he could drive to work the next morning,” Sanders told The Lookout last week.
Instead, Palmer was approached by two officers who ordered him to leave immediately, according to Sanders. When Palmer asked why, one of the officers demanded his identification.
“My client said, ‘I’m just asking, what did I do wrong?’” said Sanders, at which point Palmer allegedly was handcuffed.
Palmer had both hands in cuffs behind his back when one of the officers allegedly “swept his legs from under him,” said Sanders.
“He had his hands behind his back, so he took a header right onto the concrete,” said the attorney.
A second officer then approached Palmer while he was on the ground and pepper-sprayed him in the face, according to Sanders.
“The other cop leans down, gets right into my client’s face and pepper-sprays him directly in the eyes,” Sanders told The Lookout last week.
On April 23, police spokesman Sgt. Rudy Camarena issued a press release saying Palmer allegedly “actively resisted” during his arrest.
“Officers deployed pepper spray and physically restrained him,” Camarena said.
Palmer was booked into the Santa Monica Jail, where he later “complained of pain,” Camarena wrote. Palmer was then taken to Santa Monica Hospital where he was treated and “medically cleared,” said Camarena.
White said Palmer was arrested for violating the City’s park closure ordinance and delaying and obstructing officers in the performance of their duties.
However, “the heightened standard of proof required to sustain a criminal filing when coupled with the totality of factors associated with this incident, precluded the filing of criminal charges,” said White.