Family of teen thrown to ground in violent arrest by Rialto police files federal lawsuit
Nearly three months after a 16-year-old girl was thrown to the ground in a violent arrest by Rialto police, her family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, alleges the officers used excessive force and battered the girl during the arrest, among other claims.
Court documents name as defendants two Rialto police officers, Police Chief Mark Kling, the city of Rialto, San Bernardino County and 10 people whose identities are not yet known to the plaintiff.
The teen was arrested Feb. 11 after police stopped her for riding an illegal motorized bike in a residential neighborhood at high speeds, Kling said days after her arrest. Police launched an investigation into the officers’ actions and apologized to the girl’s family.
A portion of her arrest was captured on bystander video, which shows the officers grab her arms and then fling her to the ground. One officer appears to grab her neck.
The officers were not named in the days after the arrest, but court documents claim that an officer named Ivan Delgadillo Arce choked and struck the teen while another officer, identified only as Zamora, failed to intervene.
Zamora is also accused of conspiracy “for attempting to cover up the brutal battery on the minor and for furtherance of conspiracy by arresting the minor and lying to her father and grandfather,” according to court documents.
About 400 people rallied in front of a federal courthouse before marching to Pershing Square, where police declared an unlawful assembly.
The girl, identified in court documents only as “SAJ,” was riding a homemade “mini-bike” with her twin brother near their home, documents stated.
“Kids riding homemade mini-bikes are commonplace in Rialto, and as long as the youths wear helmets, local law enforcement usually turns a blind eye, but this day marked a change to this unwritten policy,” the lawsuit states.
The girl was stopped around 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at the intersection of South Linden and Pinedale avenues by the officers, who accused her of speeding.
Delgadillo cursed at the girl repeatedly and questioned her sexuality, “creating a negative tone for what could have been a deadly encounter,” the lawsuit alleges.
For the record:
10:02 p.m. May 8, 2022An earlier version of this article said the lawsuit alleges that Officer Ivan Delgadillo Arce created “a negative tone for what could have been a negative encounter.” The lawsuit says “a deadly encounter.”
According to a transcript included in the lawsuit, Delgadillo accused the girl of lying after she told him she was 17. She was later determined to be 16.
The exchange became more heated as the officer asked her whether she wanted to keep the bike and had someone to pick her up.
“Stop being a smart ass,” Delgadillo said, according to the transcript. “You’re not talking to your DaDa or your Mama [in a mocking tone]. You’re talking to police officers. Ok? Stop being a smart ass and we can treat you like a young lady. Ok?”
The officer accused her of going 40 mph on the bike.
“I’m not asking you, I’m telling you, because we were following you,” Delgadillo said. “We had to get up to like 80 to catch up to you. … We’re trying to tell you that you’re detained right now for a crime. The crime is you can’t be riding these things like that.”
Delgadillo told Zamora to make sure the teen got her helmet off, according to the transcript.
“Put it to the side … before she grabs you and hits you with it as a weapon,” Delgadillo said.
The girl called out to another minor across the street, telling the minor to get her brother. The officers, meanwhile, moved to arrest her.
“I’m communicating,” the girl said. “No, come on, I’m communicating with you.”
The family of Kira Dixon Johnson alleges in a lawsuit that racist practices at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center led to her bleeding out after giving birth.
Delgadillo told her to stop several times, according to the lawsuit.
“Do I have to tase you,” he said. “I don’t wanna tase you. ... Stop resisting. Stop resisting. I don’t wanna hurt you.”
As he spoke, Delgadillo threw the girl to the ground, according to the suit. She landed on a shoulder she had recently had surgery on, the lawsuit says.
Delgadillo put his knee on her chest and said, “Did you just try to bite me?! Handcuff her. Handcuff her now.”
Delgadillo said the girl tried to bite him a second time, and the officers put the girl in their patrol vehicle as her grandfather walked up, according to the suit.
At the same time, Delgadillo “forcefully, intentionally and without regard for the minor’s life, struck her directly in the throat, sucker punch style, while she was handcuffed and in the patrol unit,” the lawsuit alleges.
The strike is visible on Delgadillo’s body-camera video but not on a bystander’s cellphone video, according to the suit.
Zamora told the girl’s grandfather that they tried to detain her and that he and Delgadillo “talked to her very nice.”
The grandfather asked whether she was going to jail for resisting.
“No, she’s going to jail for assaulting an officer,” Delgadillo said. “Are you kidding me?”
“She’s under arrest for disrespecting us,” Zamora said to the girl’s father, who had also walked up, according to the transcript.
“He hurt my neck,” the girl said. “He hurt my neck! He hurt my neck! He put his hand around my neck!”
“We were as polite as we could possibly be to her,” Delgadillo said.
The LAPD is investigating two recent incidents in which off-duty LAPD officers fired bullets into their neighbors’ apartments.
The lawsuit acknowledges that Kling apologized shortly after the girl’s arrest but says “words without actions are hollow and are received as such.”
The police chief failed in his handling of the incident, the suit alleges, because the assault occurred while the girl was handcuffed and seated in the back of a patrol vehicle.
“While this explains why [he] refuses to release the damning body worn camera footage, it does not explain why [he] has not fired defendant Delgadillo for the brutal battery on the minor,” the suit says.
The lawsuit also states that the girl was booked into juvenile hall on suspicion of assault and battery on the officer and imprisoned for four days without cause.
The family’s attorney, Caree Harper, is asking the court to award $10 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court deems appropriate.
Adán Ortega, a Rialto spokesperson, said the city and Police Department do not comment on pending litigation.
In a February statement, Kling said he viewed officer body-camera footage “and although the video depicts the juvenile resisting officers, we are investigating the officer’s decision to trip the juvenile to the ground and later placing his hand on the juvenile’s throat during the arrest.”
A San Bernardino County spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.