ICE agent awarded $2.2 million in police assault


It was a stakeout gone bad, featuring jumpy police officers, human traffickers, a roughed-up federal agent, and a multimillion-dollar twist of an ending.

Sergio Lopez, an undercover U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was tracking smugglers in October 2006 when Chula Vista police officers pulled him over.

These were dangerous times in the San Diego suburb.

A Mexican gang had been kidnapping residents, sometimes by posing as law enforcement officers.


“What . . . are you doing speeding through my city?” one officer asked Lopez.

Lopez, showing his badge, tried to explain.

The police officers handcuffed Lopez and forced him to the ground.

One month later, Lopez sued. On Wednesday, he was awarded $2.2 million by a San Diego jury that decided some of the five officers had assaulted and battered him.

According to the lawsuit, Lopez’s head hit the asphalt, and his arm was pulled so severely that he feared it would snap.

The Chula Vista Police Department, which may appeal the decision, expressed disappointment.

Two of the officers have retired; the other three are still on the force.


“We believe our officers and supervisors acted appropriately . . . under suspicious and dangerous circumstances,” police spokesman Bernard Gonzales said.

Lopez is still a federal agent. And the smugglers?

“We were following a tip, and we had to shut down the operation. . . . We don’t know what we missed,” said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.