The Orange County district attorney’s office is independently investigating an incident in which Irvine police officers chased, overpowered and handcuffed an 18-year-old autistic youth they mistakenly suspected was under the influence of the drug PCP, authorities said Monday.
Guido Rodriguez Jr. suffered severe damage to a kidney in the April 21 incident, requiring surgical removal of the organ three days later, the Irvine teen-ager’s parents alleged in a $10-million claim filed Thursday against the Irvine Police Department, the City of Irvine and the three officers involved in the incident.
“We have been requested to do an independent investigation, by the City of Irvine,” Loren DuChesne, chief investigator in the district attorney’s office, said Monday. “We are conducting that investigation, and, of course, I can’t comment on the results or progress.”
Paul Brady Jr., assistant city manager, announced Friday that “due to public interest expressed in this matter,” the city has requested the district attorney’s office “to perform a joint investigation in this matter.”
However, Boyd Underwood, senior attorney’s investigator in the district attorney’s office, said Monday that his office’s investigation would be “independent.” It will not be a “joint investigation” with the City of Irvine, he said. Brady could not be reached for comment Monday.
Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran said Monday that city officials had asked the district attorney’s office to look into the incident in order “to ensure the integrity of whatever investigation takes place.”
“People react not just with interest, but with deep concern, about reports of this sort,” Agran said.
The April 21 incident began when Officer Shari Lohman, according to her report filed with the Police Department, thought that “suspicious actions” by Rodriguez indicated that he might be riding a stolen bicycle.
Lohman pursued the youth, who fled through a residential neighborhood to his home. Two other officers, Sgt. Jim Lowder and Crime Scene Investigator David Stoermer, arrived at the scene in response to radio calls for assistance. Lowder caught up with the youth in the garage of his parents’ home.
According both to witnesses and Lowder’s own report, the youth’s mother, Fara Rodriguez, told Lowder several times that her son was mentally retarded and could not understand the officer’s commands. The teen-ager has a mental age of about 4 or 5, his parents said.
In his report, Lowder wrote: “I felt that the subject was under the influence of some type of drug, possibly PCP (phencyclidine), and I placed the subject on the grassy area alongside the driveway, after overcoming his resistance to this maneuver.”
Alfred Treser, a neighbor who witnessed the incident, said that “the officer forcefully threw him to the ground” on his back in an area covered with stones.