The Los Angeles City Council signed off today on a $298,000 settlement for a man who was arrested and held for 18 days in 2016 by Los Angeles police in the mistaken belief that he was responsible for a 2000 killing.
Police said they thought Guillermo Torres was Samuel Calvario, who was sought in the Nov. 9, 2000, shooting death of 31-year-old Daniel Felix. Investigators believed Calvario had adopted a new identity — as Torres — to evade police.
Torres was cleared after DNA testing determined he was not Calvario, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading no contest on April 3 to voluntary manslaughter and admitted to a gun-use allegation in connection with Felix’s death.
Torres’ Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit, which was filed last year, alleged assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, abuse of process and civil rights violations.
The City Council approved the settlement on a 13-0 vote. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is a former LAPD officer, and Councilman Mitchell Englander, who is a reserve LAPD officer, were absent. Both councilmen have recently been the only members to oppose some legal payouts involving the Los Angeles Police Department, including a $1.95-million settlement approved earlier this month for the family of Charly “Africa” Keunang, who was shot by police in skid row in 2015.
According to Torres’ lawsuit, the LAPD received an anonymous tip that someone wanted in Felix’s killing was living at a particular address. Without having done proper DNA testing and taken other steps to prove the accuracy of the information, police arrested Torres on July 19, 2016, in front of his son and two fellow employees, the suit alleged.
Torres is five inches shorter than the actual suspect, according to his court papers.
The stress of being falsely arrested and accused of being Calvario led Torres to have an emotional breakdown and be hospitalized while in custody, according to the complaint.
“He adamantly denied being the wanted fugitive, Samuel Calvario,” the suit says.
Torres said he was released the next day and left on an unfamiliar street. He spent $100 for a cab to take him back to the San Fernando Valley, where he went back to work, according to his lawsuit.
Days later on July 25, police entered Torres’ home and held his wife, Susana, at gunpoint, leaving her fearing for her life, the suit states. Police directed her to take them to her husband’s second job, where he was again taken into custody and later arraigned and ordered held on $2-million bail in the Felix killing, according to the complaint.
Torres had given fingerprint samples and submitted to DNA testing a week earlier, but police did not check to see if the evidence matched Calvario, the suit states.
Torres was held for 18 days until he was released Aug. 10, when the DNA testing was finally examined and police determined he was not Calvario. Charges against Torres were dismissed Sept. 8, according to his court papers.
The defamation claim stems from news releases the LAPD disseminated that falsely identified Torres as a suspected killer, the suit says. The untruthful information was reported by news outlets worldwide, according to the complaint.
Calvario was apprehended about three weeks after Torres was released the second time.