City to Pay Family $145,000 Over Police Fracas

Times Staff Writer

The city of San Diego has agreed to pay $145,000 to members of a Linda Vista family who were injured in a bloody melee with officers that began with an attempted arrest and ended with acknowledgements by the Police Department that excessive force was used.

Attorneys for the city and the family of Antonio Pena, 66, announced the settlement Friday. The agreement is expected to go to the City Council for formal approval next week. Pena and two of his sons, Francisco, 34, and Rogelio, 17, filed a $30-million claim against the city after the confrontation.

Michael R. Marrinan, attorney for the Penas, called it “a fair settlement” and added: “Mr. Pena is very relieved to have it over with.”

Deputy City Atty. Kenneth So said the settlement is “in the best interest” of the city.


11 Officers Involved

The fracas occurred at 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, 1987, at the Penas’ Burton Street home after an officer attempted to arrest a third son, Manuel, 31, for drunk driving. Eventually, 11 officers were involved in the fight, which police said lasted more than 30 minutes.

Although there were conflicting reports on the incident, both sides agreed that the elder Pena was handcuffed, thrown to a garage floor and kicked in the face repeatedly by police, suffering a broken nose.

An investigation by the department’s internal affairs unit determined that the kicks were “accidental” and that excessive force was not used in subduing Antonio Pena. However, the same investigation determined that excessive force was used in the arrest of Francisco Pena, who also suffered a broken nose. In an interview a week after the fight, Francisco said that an officer hit him in the face with a flashlight.


Both men were taken to a local hospital, where they were treated and released. Assault charges were filed against the two, but the charges against Antonio were dropped. Several community and church groups, including Auxiliary Bishop Gilberto Chavez, rallied in support of the family, whose members were described by neighbors as “quiet, churchgoing people.”

Manuel Pena pleaded no contest to a drunk-driving charge and paid a fine, Marrinan said. Francisco Pena pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace, and both brothers were fined $1,420. At least one officer was disciplined in the incident.

Saw Father Kicked

According to police, the fight began when Manuel tried to evade arrest by going inside the family home. While officers overpowered Antonio and Francisco in the garage, other officers entered the house to arrest Manuel. Rogelio, who is a student at University of San Diego High School, said an officer made him sit in a chair and threatened to take him to Juvenile Hall. The teen-ager said he saw several officers walk over to his father and kick him in the face.


In the confusion surrounding the fight, one officer left his baton at the scene, which the family found three days later. A family member returned the baton at police headquarters and was given a receipt acknowledging acceptance of the missing weapon.

The incident was also investigated by FBI agents for possible civil rights violations. But the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department notified the family on April 1, 1988, that a review of the FBI investigation showed there were no grounds for prosecuting the officers.

However, the family’s complaint of police brutality increased demands from community groups for a police review board. It and other complaints eventually led to the creation of the Civilian Review Board on Police Practices, which monitors investigations by the internal affairs unit.