Two Los Angeles police officers who are being sued on allegations of using excessive force took the witness stand Wednesday and denied that they beat a former banking executive during an arrest that left the man with a broken shoulder blade and multiple nose fractures.
LAPD Officer James Nichols told jurors hearing a federal civil rights lawsuit that he never struck onetime Deutsche Bank Vice Chairman Brian Mulligan, a former co-chair of Universal Pictures, with a baton and wasn't even carrying one during the May 2012 confrontation in Highland Park, as Mulligan has alleged.
"I have never once used my baton in my 13 years of being a police officer," Nichols said. He said he left the baton in his police cruiser after jumping out to pursue a screaming and delusional Mulligan on foot.
Mulligan testified this week that Nichols broke his nose in 15 places with a baton strike, and that the officers broke his shoulder blade during a beating at Avenue 54 and Meridian Avenue.
Answering questions from Mulligan's attorney, Louis "Skip" Miller, Nichols and his partner, Officer John Miller, testified that they don't know exactly how Mulligan suffered his injuries.
The officers told jurors that they detained Mulligan about 10:40 p.m. May 15 after reports of a man trying to get into cars near Occidental College. They determined that Mulligan was not under the influence of illegal narcotics, but testified that he told them he had consumed a legal drug known as bath salts — a synthetic stimulant designed to be like cocaine or methamphetamine — four days before and had not slept since. Mulligan, however, testified that he had not used bath salts for two weeks before the incident.
With their supervisor's approval, the officers left Mulligan at a Highland Park motel to sleep it off, they said. But within hours, they testified, Mulligan was tossing a metal trash can into the street, and the officers again responded to the scene.
Nichols said that as he ran after Mulligan, the 54-year-old executive turned to face him, curling his fingers like claws, gnashing his teeth and growling. Then, Nichols testified, Mulligan got into a tackle stance and charged him.
Nichols said he used Mulligan's own momentum to shove him to the ground by the curb. He said that as he and his partner tried to pin and handcuff Mulligan, he tried to bite them and buck them off.
"He was ramming his face into the street," Nichols, a 13-year veteran of the LAPD, told jurors, adding that Mulligan "hit his face hard."
John Miller, a six-year veteran of the LAPD, testified that neither he nor his partner struck Mulligan in the head with a baton; he testified that he delivered only two baton blows to Mulligan's torso. He told jurors that striking someone in the head with a baton would be considered a potential use of deadly force, and he would have reported his partner had that occurred.
"I like my house. I like my dogs. I don't think I'd do well in prison," the officer said. Asked to explain what caused Mulligan's injuries, Miller replied, "I wouldn't know if I did it, my partner did it or the ground did it."
But an expert witness, Dr. Harry Lincoln Smith, testifying on Mulligan's behalf, said that after examining the man's injuries, he concluded that the nose fractures were the results of baton strikes. He said a mark on Mulligan's shoulder blade was a "pretty good match" for the tip of a baton.
Mulligan and the officers agree on hardly anything about that night except that they first met at an entrance of Occidental College.
Mulligan testified that after being detained and the officers had determined that he committed no crime, he asked them to call a cab or his wife in La Cañada Flintridge. Instead, he said, they took him to Highland Park Motel and put him in a room with no phone. He said Miller told him he would be killed if he left before morning — something Miller disputes — and so he ran, fearing for his life. That was what he was doing, he said, when the officers caught up with him again.