Excessive force alleged in suit against SFPD officer 

click to enlarge The suit alleges that an officer used excessive force following an arrest. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • The suit alleges that an officer used excessive force following an arrest.

A San Francisco man has sued the Police Department in federal court, accusing a Richmond District officer of fracturing his neck with a punch to the face after an arrest last year.

The excessive force lawsuit, filed Friday by Erik Russell, 44, names Officer Damien Reyes and is seeking $4 million.

A police spokesman declined comment on the pending litigation.

Police arrested Russell for public intoxication after he staggered out of a Clement Street bar after 10 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2011, according to a police report.
Russell had walked into the street, in front of the patrol car and past another vehicle that had to slam on its brakes, they said. He was described as “flushed and sweaty” and stinking of alcohol and told them he planned to go to another bar.

“We will readily admit that he was under the influence,” said Russell’s attorney Panos Lagos. “The issue is what happened to him afterward.”

At the station, the lawsuit said, Russell’s hand was handcuffed to a bench in a holding cell; then Reyes came in and hit Russell with a closed fist, causing his head to hit the back of the cell wall and fracturing his neck. Russell was treated at the hospital for a laceration to the head.

The police report indicates Reyes was defending himself after he said Russell began yelling for police “to take off these f------ handcuffs” and Russell kicked him in the leg.

“Any unnecessary force under the law is excessive force,” Lagos said. “All he had to do was step back.”

Instead, the officer “went and socked him in the jaw,” Lagos said. Russell was not permanently injured, Lagos said.

Russell was eventually booked on charges of battery on a police officer and jaywalking. Prosecutors declined to file charges.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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