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Lawsuit alleging excessive force by LAPD at black USC student party settled for $450,000

Folasade Aremu, who was then a freshman economics major, holds a photo during a 2013 sit-in on the USC campus to protest the LAPD's handling of the party.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a $450,000 settlement of a lawsuit by USC students who alleged that LAPD officers in riot gear used excessive force and falsely arrested attendees at a predominantly black off-campus student party.

The six students who sued over the raid during the early hours of May 4, 2013, accused Los Angeles police of racial bias because they allowed a predominantly white student party across the street to continue. They alleged that officers violated their civil rights and assaulted and battered them. One student, Christian Sutton, alleged in the suit that he was tackled to the ground by officers and arrested for taking a video of their actions.

In June, a jury found in favor of several of the students, determining that some of the officers used excessive force, did not have probable cause for an arrest and acted with malice. LAPD Officer John Carlyle was found to have used excessive force on Sutton. Jurors also found that Carlyle had no probable cause for the arrest and acted with malice. Sgts. Boris Washington and Brandon Rockett were also found to have used excessive force and to have acted with malice. Jurors, however, did not find that officers acted with racial bias. After the verdicts, the city agreed to settle the case.

Neither the city attorney’s office nor the attorney for the students could be reached for comment.

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The end-of-semester party took place at a house a few blocks from campus near West 23rd and Hoover streets. A neighbor called police complaining about the noise. Police arrived shortly after 2 a.m., and the situation escalated with the arrival of dozens of more officers in riot gear. Six people were arrested and one officer was injured. Two of those arrested were treated for “minor abrasions,” police said.

At one point, officers formed a skirmish line on nearby Hoover Street.

The clash roiled the USC campus, prompting a student sit-in at the center of campus a few days later.

The students’ lawsuit alleged that the “mostly minority student party properly registered their party with the University of Southern California’s Department of Public Safety, the University’s law enforcement arm. The hosts ... also properly checked student ID’s at the door, a requirement for such parties. The mostly Caucasian party did neither of these things.”

After the incident, the LAPD launched an internal investigation into partygoers’ complaints but defended the actions of the officers, who said that they asked organizers to shut down the party but that it started up again.

“It was a party that got out of control, people were throwing things at the police, so we donned protective gear,” Capt. Andrew Neiman told the Times in 2013.

Neiman said officers used force on one partygoer because he resisted arrest. He was arrested on suspicion of felony interfering with the work of police officers. Four others were arrested on suspicion of failing to disperse, and another was arrested on suspicion of interference.

Attendees of both parties took to social media, posting videos of the confrontation and personal accounts of what they perceived to be racial profiling by law enforcement.

richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes

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