Roseville police officer denies brutality allegations


(dashcam photo courtesy of Roseville Police Department)

Council met in closed session June 18 to discuss case

One of the Roseville police officers named as a defendant in a police brutality lawsuit has filed a response to the case, denying the alleged abuse.

Officers Justin Gunderson, Erin Reski, Kyle Eckert and Grant Dattilo are accused of using excessive force against Victor Yair Hernandez-Rivera during a traffic stop that took place in the early morning hours of May 26, 2013.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court April 10, Hernandez-Rivera was the passenger in a vehicle traveling on westbound Highway 36 that was pulled over for speeding.

The driver of that vehicle exited the highway at Lexington Avenue and stopped on West Sherren Street before jumping out of the car and fleeing into the residential neighborhood. The driver has not been identified or caught.

Hernandez-Rivera alleges that although he attempted to comply with the officers' orders, he only understands and speaks "limited" English. He says the officers swore at him, punched him, Tasered him multiple times and forced him to ride in the back of a squad car for an hour with his pants down.

Hernandez-Rivera is seeking $500,000 in punitive damages.

Gunderson is the first of the four officers to submit a response; he denies the allegations, saying he "at all times acted reasonably and properly."

Gunderson contradicts much of Hernandez-Rivera's account of what happened, including that he used a Taser on Hernandez-Rivera three times.

Instead, Gunderson's reponse says, not all of the attempts to stun him using the Taser were successful. "[Gunderson] admits to attempting to deploy a second and third cycle, but was unable to make contact sufficient to achieve neuromuscular incapacitation," the document states.

Gunderson does admit to yelling "Don't you f-ing move" at Hernandez-Rivera and pointing a pistol at him as he ran into the unlighted neighborhood to chase the driver of the vehicle.

He also states that Hernandez-Rivera only ever raised his hands to about waist-level, not above his head. Gunderson says that rather than being compliant, Hernandez-Rivera "was disobeying commands," according to the response document.

"Any injuries or damages sustained by [Hernandez-Rivera] were due to and caused by [his] own conduct," the response states.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed in April, the Roseville Police Department announced it had opened an internal affairs investigation of the arrest. The results of the investigation have not yet been released to the public.

The Roseville City Council held a special closed meeting June 18 to consult with the attorney representing the four officers to discuss litigation strategy. In a statement, the city said although it's not named as a party in the lawsuit, it is "cooperating with the legal process."

"The city believes that the Federal Judicial System, where the suit will be heard, will provide the most independent and unbiased review of the facts," the statement reads. "The city will complete its internal investigation related to personnel matters following the conclusion of the legal process."

The statement says the case is still in "early stages," and the city expects to receive a court schedule soon.

A shortened version of the dash camera video from the May 26, 2013, traffic stop is available here: http://bit.ly/1iB48BW or video will load below.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

 

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