A mentally ill homeless man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against 14 Los Angeles police officers involved in his arrest in Venice last summer, alleging that some officers used excessive force against him while others failed to intervene.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, states that Samuel Arrington, 52, was “repeatedly punched, shot with a Taser gun and hogtied” during his Aug. 7 arrest, resulting in “significant and permanent injuries to his body and mind.”
Standing with Arrington’s sister outside LAPD headquarters Tuesday, attorney Nazareth Haysbert said the incident was just one of many times his client had been beaten by LAPD officers, including a June 2011 incident that left an eight-inch gash in his head.
Haysbert also read a statement on behalf of Arrington, who said he believed the LAPD had harassed him ever since he stopped a friend from buying heroin from an undercover officer. Arrington said his “life and health have been forever changed” by the LAPD.
“The city of Los Angeles and the LAPD need to treat mentally ill homeless people better,” Arrington said in his statement, adding that on the day he was arrested in Venice, “all I wanted to do was enjoy a day at the beach.”
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the allegations. The officers named in the lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The LAPD opened an internal affairs investigation into the matter, which is still ongoing. Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday that the officers involved in the incident had returned to the field.
Beck also declined to discuss the details of the case, but said it reflected the difficulties police and the city have faced addressing rising homelessness.
“That is another tragic incident,” Beck said. “Not necessarily that the officers acted inappropriately but officers being placed in an inappropriate position, trying to deal with the consequences of years of neglect in one minute. And that’s hard to do.”
During the August arrest, which was captured on video, one officer used a Taser four times as police tried to subdue Arrington, according to a police report obtained by The Times last month. One officer said he saw another strike Arrington twice in the head with a closed fist.
Police initially approached Arrington that afternoon and warned him he was violating several boardwalk ordinances, according to the police report. Two officers gave him a verbal warning, then walked away.
When the officers returned about 45 minutes later, they told Arrington they were going to cite him, the report says. One of the officers, Daniel Ramirez, recognized Arrington as a man who had resisted arrest when he took him into custody the previous month, the report said, and alerted another officer.
Video shot on a bystander’s cellphone shows two officers asking Arrington, who is sitting in a chair, to sign the citation, telling him they would arrest him if he refused. “I will not,” Arrington says in the video.
The video then shows the officers moving in to take Arrington into custody, holding him by the arms while pulling his chair away. At least four officers bring him to the ground. The sound of a Taser can be heard multiple times.
The officers eventually restrain Arrington’s hands and feet, then carry him from the scene.
According to the report, Ramirez said Arrington was trying to grab another officer’s holstered pistol.
Arrington’s lawsuit disputed the account relayed in the police report, citing “several major discrepancies” that “raise concerns” regarding whether the officers fabricated or withheld evidence.
The lawsuit contends the video does not show Arrington reach for an officer’s belt, act aggressively toward officers or resist them. The lawsuit also disputes that Arrington was given verbal warnings to stop resisting and said a sergeant took cellphone video of the incident that was not noted in the police report.
Haysbert said Arrington pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and spent about a month in jail.
The lawsuit comes a few weeks after Haysbert wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into what he described as a pattern of “criminal police misconduct” toward his client. Police records show Arrington was arrested four times over the last two years, including during three incidents in which officers used some type of force because, they said, he was resisting.
It was the first of two high-profile incidents involving the LAPD and homeless men in Venice this spring. Earlier this month, an officer fatally shot Brendon Glenn near Venice’s famed boardwalk after what police described as a physical altercation between the 29-year-old and two officers. Chief Charlie Beck has said he was “very concerned” about the incident.
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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.