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Police brutality lawsuit filed against Roseville police officers
Man alleges excessive force used during arrest; seeks $500,000
Last week, a Minneapolis man filed a lawsuit against several Roseville police officers following his arrest last spring.
Victor Yair Hernandez-Rivera alleges that four officers used excessive force against him during a traffic stop that led to his arrest in May 2013, and is seeking $500,000 in punitive damages.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, April 10, and the Roseville Police Dept. announced April 17 it had opened an internal investigation of the incident.
“The Roseville Police Department takes allegations of this nature very seriously,” a statement from the department says. “The internal affairs investigation can take considerable time to complete. We ask for the public’s patience as we investigate the allegations.”
In the meantime, however, Hernandez-Rivera’s attorney Paul Edlund says the lawsuit will move forward, and is “looking forward” to learning the results of the internal investigation.
Driver fled running
According to the complaint, Hernandez-Rivera, who was 24 at the time, was one of two travelers in a white Saturn sedan traveling eastbound on State Highway 36 that was pulled over for suspected speeding during the early morning hours of May 26, 2013.
After exiting the thoroughfare onto Lexington Avenue and pulling over on a residntial side street, the driver fled the scene on foot. Officer Justin Gunderson, whose squad car was equipped with a dashboard camera that captured the entire event, ran after the driver and allegedly pointed his pistol at the vehicle, yelling “Stay back!”
The driver can be seen running into the front yard of a home before disappearing behind a fence, Gunderson in close pursuit.
According to Hernandez-Rivera’s attorney, the driver has never been caught.
Three Taser cycles
After about a minute and a half, Gunderson returned to where the Saturn was pulled over, and Hernandez-Rivera opened his door to get out. The complaint states that Hernandez-Rivera then stood up in the door and held his hands up in front of his body “in a non-aggressive sign of compliance.” He had his cell phone in his right hand.
Gunderson notified other officers by radio that one of the occupants was exiting the vehicle and allegedly yelled, “Don’t you move, don’t you f-ing move!”
He then allegedly yelled, “Get on the ground,” and grabbed the back of Hernandez-Rivera’s neck, forcing him to the sidewalk on his stomach. The complaint states he was pushed “with enough force to shatter the cell phone” in his hand, which was trapped under his body.
Then, Gunderson allegedly shot a Taser into Hernandez-Rivera’s legs and back and yelled, “stop resisting, put your hands behind your back!”
Officer Erin Reski then arrived on the scene and allegedly yelled, “Stop resisting!” The complaint states that she allegedly struck Hernandez-Rivera in the side twice with her knee as she attempted to force Hernandez-Rivera’s hands behind his back.
Gunderson then allegedly deployed the Taser twice more. Hernandez-Rivera can allegedly be heard moaning, “no, no,” over the clicking sound of the gun.
Finally, Hernandez-Rivera was able to lift his arm out from under his body as two more Roseville officers, Kyle Eckert and Grant Dattilo, arrived on the scene.
Dattilo allegedly kicked Hernandez-Rivera in the side, got on the ground and punched him twice.
Officers then cuffed Hernandez and pulled him from the ground to be searched against the side of the car.
Arrestee allegedly knows ‘limited’ English
The complaint states that as Reski was performing a search, “it becomes clear that Hernandez does not understand” what she is saying. Reski allegedly asked him, “You don’t speak English at all, do you?”
After being directed to the squad car, Gunderson allegedly asked Hernandez in Spanish where “his friend” was, to which Hernandez-Rivera responded that he did not know.
“Oh, you don’t know, are you stupid?” Gunderson allegedly responded in Spanish. The complaint states that he also allegedly “taunted” Hernandez-Rivera for not knowing.
Hernandez-Rivera then sat, handcuffed, in the back of a squad car for “over an hour,”according to the complaint, before he was brought to the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center.
The amount of English Hernandez-Rivera knows is “limited,” according to his attorney, Paul Edlund.
Misdemeanor charges dismissed
The Roseville city attorney then charged Hernandez-Rivera with misdemeanor obstruction of legal process without force and misdemeanor failure to obey a police officer under city ordinances.
Both charges were dismissed in court.
“[Hernandez-Rivera] stayed in the car because that’s what you do when you get pulled over by the police,”Edlund said. “He had no reason to flee or think he had done anything wrong.”
Ultimately, Edlund says, the reason the lawsuit was even able to be filed is because there’s a dash cam recording. “What’s really concerning is what happens to the cases where there’s not video,” Edlund said. “[In this case] their complaint is in stark contrast to what the video shows.
“[Hernandez-Rivera] filed this lawsuit because he thinks it’s very important for other people to see this video to deter this kind of police conduct and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
To see a shortened version of the dash camera video from the May 26, 2013, traffic stop, see below or click this link.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.
A lawsuit filed April 10 by Victor Yair Hernandez-Rivera alleges Roseville police officers Justin Gunderson, Erin Reski, Kyle Eckert and Grant Dattilo used excessive force during a traffic stop that took place around 2:30 a.m. on May 26, 2013. This video is an edited version of that event.
Hernandez-Rivera allegedly speaks "limited" English. The driver, who fled the scene, has not been caught.
Video courtesy of the Roseville Police Dept.