Panel Upholds Suspension of Officer Who Punched Suspect

Times Staff Writer

The four-day suspension of a San Diego police officer for punching a suspected drug offender was upheld Thursday by the city’s Civil Service Commission.

Michael Cash, a member of the Police Department’s WE CAN (Walking Enforcement Campaign Against Narcotics) unit, received the suspension after a Municipal Court judge ruled that the officer used excessive force in arresting Terry Garrett in the summer of 1987.

According to police records, Cash and Officer Eugene Bojorquez arrested Garrett on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance.


Won $1 Million

The 42-year-old Garrett gained some notoriety when he won $1 million in the California Lottery and also for testifying against police in the Sagon Penn case. He is now serving a two-year prison term for shoplifting.

In its ruling, the Civil Service Commission said Cash and Bojorquez arrested Garrett in July, 1987, after he tried to hide two small packages containing cocaine in his mouth. Bojorquez placed Garrett in a chokehold and Cash “struck Garrett several times in the face, breaking his nose,” the commission’s ruling said.

Cash could not be reached for comment Thursday. But, during a commission hearing in November, he contended that he hit Garrett because he was afraid for his partner’s safety, as he thought Garrett might try to seize Bojorquez’s gun.

However Municipal Judge E. Mack Amos Jr. ruled in October, 1987, that the force used by Cash was unnecessary. The judge then dismissed the drug charges against Garrett.

‘Little or No Danger’

In upholding the suspension for Cash, the Civil Service Commission ruled that Garrett “presented little or no danger” to the officers during the arrest.

“The primary reason the appellant (Cash) struck Garrett was not to defend himself or his partner from bodily harm, but to extract the narcotics from Garrett’s mouth,” the commission’s ruling said. “Such force was therefore unnecessary and excessive.”