Four men and a juvenile who claim they were tortured by Huntington Beach police with electronic devices called stun guns filed a $25-million federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the city, Police Chief Earle Robitaille and 23 police officers.
Each of the five alleges in the lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court branch office in Santa Ana, that they suffered "severe injury, both physically and emotionally," as a result of violations of their due process and equal protection rights under the U.S Constitution.
'Haven't Been Served'
Huntington Beach Police Lt. Michael Biggs said his department would have no comment until officials study the lawsuit. "We haven't been served with a copy," Biggs said. "We are aware of it only because of calls from the press."
Allegations involving three of the plaintiffs--Eric Anderson, Thomas Lyday and Kevin L. Reighter--were reported after a December news conference called by their attorney, Marc Creighton Block, or through claims filed with the city that have been denied by the Huntington Beach City Council.
Anderson, Lyday and Reighter were joined in Tuesday's lawsuit by Scott Singer and Gregory Miller, a minor. The City Council also has rejected damage claims filed by Singer and the Miller youth, according to the lawsuit.
Anderson said he received about 50 burn marks from a stun gun last December after he refused to take a "chemical test" and, according to police, would not cooperate during fingerprinting at the City Jail.
Lyday, arrested in December on suspicion of burglary, alleged that he was burned by a stun gun after he argued with authorities over how many phone calls he was allowed.
Reighter, taken into custody last October on suspicion of being drunk in public, claimed he was burned on his back, neck, stomach and chest with a stun gun after authorities handcuffed him and lifted his shirt. Reighter also has claimed that he was beaten and suffered three fractured ribs and a black eye.
Singer, arrested last August on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, alleged that he was shocked several times with a stun gun, without warning, while being led to a jail cell.
Gregory Miller, jailed last July on suspicion of being drunk in public, alleged that he was knocked to the ground at the beach and shocked several times with a stun gun after being grabbed by a man that he did not know, who was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and baseball cap.
As part of Tuesday's lawsuit, Singer and Gregory contended that police used their arrests as a "pretext" for the "illegal use of excessive force and violence upon those in their custody."
Stun guns emit up to 50,000 volts through two electrical contacts. They have been used by Huntington Beach police since mid-1985, according to Police Lt. Jack Reinholtz.