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Witness Fails to Identify Accused Officer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Oxnard man who claims he was kicked in the face by policeman Robert Flinn during a 1995 arrest failed to identify the officer in court Thursday.

After telling a Superior Court jury that Flinn bloodied his nose with a quick kick while he lay defenseless on the ground, 24-year-old Victor Aguiar scanned the courtroom before declaring that he could not point out Flinn.

“No,” Aguiar said after Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Frawley asked if he saw Flinn in the courtroom.

“He’s just not a credible witness,” defense lawyer William Hadden said after the court session. “I think that just goes to show his powers of observation regarding anything to do with this incident.”

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But Frawley said he does not see Aguiar’s testimony as a damaging lapse. “It’s actually very credible,” the prosecutor said, “because it shows he’s not just making stuff up.

“Anybody knows,” Frawley added, “that the person sitting next to the defense counsel is the defendant, but he didn’t just say, ‘That’s him.’ ”

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Frawley noted that Flinn wore a police uniform when he arrested Aguiar. But on Thursday the bespectacled officer, whose dark hair was combed back, was dressed in a double-breasted blue suit.

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Aguiar looked directly at Flinn at one point, but insisted that he did not recognize him or any of the several police officers who attended the trial to show their support for Flinn. That was, Aguiar said, despite having been arrested by Flinn a second time last year on suspicion of auto theft.

Aguiar’s statements came during the second day of testimony in the brutality trial of Flinn, 29, a five-year veteran of the Oxnard force who is charged with beating two suspects in arrests in 1995 and 1996.

Prosecutors assert that Flinn not only kicked Aguiar after chasing him and a friend through the streets of south Oxnard, but that a month later he culminated his pursuit of suspected burglar Juan Lopez, 30, by clubbing the Oxnard man above the eye with a metal flashlight and opening a gash.

Frawley has described Flinn as a “bully with a badge” who twice struck suspects after they had surrendered and whose misdeeds are being covered up by his colleagues through a code of silence.

Before his failure to identify Flinn, Aguiar--now in jail for violating conditions of his parole from state prison for stealing cars--told jurors that he fled police Dec. 27, 1995, because he thought they had a warrant for his arrest.

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As it turned out, police were armed with an arrest warrant for Javier Tamayo, a member of the same Oxnard gang as Aguiar. The men fled in different directions, only to be trapped by police in the backyard of a house on Valley Park Drive.

There, while the men lay on their stomachs with their arms extended, Aguiar said, Flinn surprised him with a kick to the left side of his nose.

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“When they handcuffed me, I asked them why they kicked me,” Aguiar testified. The police response was that “nobody here kicked me. Just that it wasn’t them.”

After being booked at the Oxnard police station for resisting arrest, Aguiar said, he was released but not before asking Flinn, whom he did not know by name, why he’d been kicked.

“I knew it was him who kicked me, and I asked him why did he kick me,” Aguiar said. Flinn’s response: “Next time don’t run, don’t run from us.”

Aguiar said he learned Flinn’s name later, when the officer arrested him in another case. Hadden said that arrest was for auto theft, but was not the one for which Aguiar was sent to prison last year.

Frawley asked Aguiar why he never filed a formal complaint about the kicking, which bloodied his nose but caused no lasting physical injury.

“I didn’t think I could do anything about that,” Aguiar said. “They let me out, so . . . “

Aguiar’s statements followed by a day the testimony of Tamayo, 18, who either disavowed his own earlier statements that he saw Flinn kick Aguiar or said he did not remember what had occurred during the incident.

That prompted Judge Steven Perren to inform jurors that they could consider prior statements made by witnesses if trial testimony contradicted those statements.

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Perren allowed Frawley to question Tamayo--now in jail after his arrest for being under the influence of a controlled substance--about statements he made to investigators for both the defense and the prosecution.

In a prior statement, Tamayo said Flinn had attacked Aguiar even though both suspects were lying face down on the ground.

Testimony in the case is set to resume Monday.


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