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Irvine Will Pay Damages in Arrest of Autistic Man

Times Staff Writer

The City of Irvine has agreed to pay between $200,000 and $400,000 to the family of an autistic young man whose kidney was removed after Irvine police officers struggled with him on his front lawn.

Exact terms of the settlement, agreed to about a month ago, were not revealed, and the document has been sealed by Orange County Court Commissioner Greer Stroud.

City, Insurer to Pay

But sources familiar with the settlement, which the City Council approved, said Wednesday that Irvine would pay the family of Guido Rodriguez Jr. $100,000 of the amount and that its insurers would pay the rest.

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“I felt it was fair,” said Guido Rodriguez Sr., the young man’s father, who declined to confirm the figure. “It’s not what I wanted, but it saves a lot of time and aggravation.”

Richard Peterson, the Rodriguez family attorney, said: “The case has been settled. I can’t comment on the terms of the settlement, but as far as we’re concerned, the matter is concluded and the case is closed.”

Irvine Mayor David Baker declined to confirm the settlement and the city’s attorney did not return several telephone calls.

On April 21, 1985, the younger Rodriguez, then 18, was riding his bicycle near his home in Irvine. Patrol Officer Shari Lohman saw him from her car and later said in a report that his “suspicious actions” caused her to approach him. Rodriguez, who had a mental age of about 4, fled on his bicycle and then on foot, leading Lohman to suspect that the bicycle may have been stolen, the report said. She radioed for assistance, saying he was “possibly on drugs.”

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Two other officers caught up with the young man in his garage as he was screaming for his mother. While his mother shouted to the officers that her son was retarded and couldn’t understand them, one of the officers, Sgt. Jim Louder, grappled with Rodriguez on the front lawn, subdued him and took him into custody.

After Guido Rodriguez Sr. arrived and repeated his wife’s explanation, their son was released at the scene.

Lost His Kidney

Three days later, after young Rodriguez noticed blood in his urine, his kidney was removed.

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An investigation into the incident conducted by the Orange County district attorney’s office exonerated Louder, Lohman and the third officer, David Stoermer. The report also cited medical evidence that Rodriguez’s kidney was enlarged, or “hydronephrotic,” from “a lifelong condition resulting from a birth defect.”

Maurice L. Evans, the deputy district attorney in charge of the investigation, wrote in a cover letter to Irvine Police Chief Leo E. Peart that “there is no evidence that the struggle (with police) . . . aggravated the hydronephrotic condition of the kidney.”

The Rodriguez family rejected the findings of the report, the complete text of which was never made available to the public.

No disciplinary action was taken against any of the officers and, according to Guido Rodriguez Sr., no apology was ever offered by any representative of the city or the Police Department.

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Non-Publicity Clause?

A part of the settlement appears to have included an agreement on the part of the Rodriguez family not to generate any additional publicity about the case.

The father refused to confirm this but he did acknowledge receiving an invitation to appear on the Phil Donahue television show. But, he said, “at the request of my attorney, I had to decline it.”

The family has since moved to Corona, and Guido Rodriguez Sr. said his son “is doing great. He’s doing excellent. The only thing remaining out of the whole ordeal is that he still gets nervous whenever he sees a police officer. Whenever we mention Irvine, he says he doesn’t want to go to Irvine.’

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Now 19, Guido Rodriguez Jr. no longer attends school. Nor does he ride his bicycle, according to his father, who added: “He has never touched it since.”


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