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Woman files excessive-force lawsuit against CHP officer in DUI arrest

Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementDrunk DrivingCrimeCourts and the JudiciaryElectionsPolitics

A 25-year-old woman has filed a federal lawsuit against a California Highway Patrol officer who allegedly used excessive force during a suspected DUI arrest in 2012.

Standing outside the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles last Friday, Aloni Bonilla claimed Officer Jose A. Ramirez also violated her civil rights. 

Department officials declined to comment because the litigation is ongoing, said CHP spokesman Officer Jose Barrios. 

Bonilla said she was driving from her Baldwin Park home to a friend’s house in Alhambra around 1:30 a.m. on March 21, 2012, when she was pulled over on the west 10 Freeway.

She was driving on a section of the freeway that had been shut down, but never saw any traffic signs warning her of the closure when she took the Francisquito Avenue onramp.

After a Breathalyzer test detected traces of alcohol, the Cal State Los Angeles student was taken to a hospital for a blood sample, she said. At the hospital, she claimed the officer became confrontational.

“He grabbed me by my arm, lifted me out of my chair, turned me around and slammed — drilling it — my head into the wall,” Bonilla said. “On the wall was a mounted object, and the left side of my face immediately started to bleed and swell.”

She alleged that Ramirez pushed her down on the ground and said over his police radio that Bonilla was resisting arrest. He then put his knee on her back and began handcuffing her.

“I’m 120 pounds, this was a 220-pounds, 6-foot male Latino officer,” she said. “I was never given medical treatment, I never got that blood sample.”

She lost her DUI court case after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed video footage of the incident captured by the hospital’s surveillance camera, she said.

Prosecutors asked that the video be dismissed because it was prejudiced against the officer. The video, which has a 10-second gap before the officer begins handcuffing Bonilla, has since been posted on YouTube.  

Outside federal courthouse Friday, community activists and grass-roots organizations stood in support of Bonilla. Some held signs that read “Justice for Aloni,” and “Stop police brutality.”

“This is a bigger issue,” Bonilla told reporters Friday. “I want the public to know that resisting arrest can be used as a cover-up charge when an officer uses excessive force.”

Among those supporting Bonilla was Chicano author and activist Luis Rodriguez, who is also a gubernatorial candidate and has been endorsed by the Green Party.

Bonilla’s mother, Rosie Castelar, said she hopes others will be inspired by her daughter’s actions to speak out against excessive force by the police, as alleged by her daughter.

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[For the Record, 1:34 p.m. PDT, March 24: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated Bonilla was driving from her Baldwin Hills home. She lives in Baldwin Park. For the Record, 3:31 p.m. PDT March 24: A previous version of this post mistakenly said Rodriguez was a gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party; he has been endorsed by the Green Party. It also incorrectly said Bonilla's mother is Patricia Castelar; her first name is Rosie.]

ruben.vives@latimes.com

Twitter: @latvives

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