A gay man will be awarded $572,500 in an out-of-court settlement after he was victimized by Palo Alto, California police last year.
As the local news website Patch was the first to report, Gustavo Alvarez sued after he was arrested by Palo Alto police in February 2018. Footage of the incident reportedly shows Alvarez being thrown to the ground after police arrived at his mobile home to question him about reports he had been driving under a suspended license.
After law enforcement officials “dragged him out of his house,” the officers on duty allegedly smashed his head into a windshield, threatened him, and taunted him. “You think you’re such a tough guy, huh?” former Sgt. Wayne Benitez reportedly asked him.
The force used to apprehend Alvarez was so excessive that he allegedly lost a tooth and bled profusely throughout the altercation. When he complained, it did not stop the violence.
“You're gonna be bleeding a whole lot more,” Benitez responded.
The Salfen Law Firm, which represented Alvarez, subsequently filed 17 charges against the City of Palo Alto, which included infliction of emotional distress, negligence, assault, battery, and civil rights violations. Benitez, who was named as the “primary aggressor” in the case, reportedly mocked Alvarez for being gay on a separate recording.
The criminal case was eventually dropped due to alleged “lack of evidence,” but the city chose to resolve a civil suit outside the court in order to “minimize the burden and expense of federal litigation,” as a representative claimed in a statement.
While officials say they “sharply dispute the vast majority” of the allegations Alvarez made in his lawsuit, Palo Alto will now mandate that all law enforcement officials undergo LGBTQ+ sensitivity training as a condition of the settlement, which was approved by its city council this week.
Nearly every single one of the officers who are alleged to have assaulted Alvarez remain on the force. Benitez retired after being placed on administrative leave.