By the Daily Post staff
A man claims in a lawsuit that he was grabbed, choked and slammed to the ground by Mountain View police who were investigating a verbal disagreement between him and his girlfriend following a 2019 concert at Shoreline Amphitheater. But police say the man was “heavily intoxicated” and officers used “objectively reasonable force” to get the man to comply with their orders.
Mountain View City Council will discuss the federal lawsuit in a closed-door session on Tuesday (Feb. 22).
The suit was filed in August by Anthony Gonzalez, who is represented by Oakland lawyers Adante Pointer and Patrick Buelna.
The defendants include the city, the Police Department and Sgt. Chris Goff, Sgt. Scott Thomas, and officers Jason Roldan and James O’Malley.
‘A brief verbal disagreement’
The suit claims that Gonzalez and his girlfriend were having “a brief verbal disagreement” while waiting for an Uber to take them back to their hotel. They were approached by a security guard who asked them if everything was OK. Gonzalez said he told the guard there were no issues, according to the suit. Then several police officers approached Gonzalez and told him he was being detained.
This is where the stories of the two sides differ. Gonzalez said in the suit that he was forcefully grabbed by one of the officers and ordered to sit on the curb. So he said he took out his phone to record his interaction with officers.
Gonzalez then claims officers grabbed and choked him, and slammed his head into the ground until he became unconscious. Gonzalez says he told officers he couldn’t breathe, but his complaint was ignored.
DA declined to prosecute
Afterward, police arrested Gonzales on suspicion of resisting arrest and public intoxication. But the DA declined to press charges.
The defendants contend that Gonzales was walking away when Sgt. Goff grabbed Gonzalez’ left arm and told him to sit down on the curb.
“The officers used objectively reasonable force to gain control of plaintiff who was physically resistive and heavily intoxicated,” the defendant’s answer to the suit. “Defendants deny that any officer choked Plaintiff and/or used unreasonable force. Defendants further deny that Plaintiff offered mere passive resistive.”
Other police lawsuits
Gonzalez suit comes as the city is defending its police department against a $10 million lawsuit filed by Mario Edgardo Melendez, who claims officers falsely arrested him, beat him up so badly he lost consciousness and deleted cellphone video he recorded of the incident. Defendants include Officers Benjamin F. Kroutil, Joshua K. Lai, Anthony R. Reinosa and Sgt. Jeffrey J. Reed.
And in 2020, the parents of a 5-year-old girl won a $600,000 settlement in a lawsuit that accused three Mountain View police officers and a Santa Clara County social worker stripped their 5-year-old daughter and examined her private parts for signs of sexual abuse. Under the settlement, the city of Mountain View paid $350,000, the county paid $200,000, and American Medical Response or AMR, whose paramedic Laura Yamada helped examine the girl’s privates, paid $50,000. Defendants included Yamada, officers Mason M. Motomura, Jason Poirier and Matthew R. Rogers, and Sgt. Tony Vieyra.
Mountain View dodged a bullet last year when a man who was sleeping in a backyard was attacked by a police dog settled his suit. Joel Alejo was attacked on June 25, 2020, at 1847 block of Elsie Ave. in what was later determined to be a case of mistaken identity. Mountain View police asked Palo Alto police to use their police dog to find a kidnapper. When the dog came upon Alejo, he didn’t resist but Palo Alto police Agent Nick Enberg still instructed the dog to bite the man, video of the incident shows. Afterward, both departments kept the incident secret from the public until the Post obtained legal documents through a public records act request that described the episode. In the end, the city of Palo Alto paid Alejo $135,000 and Mountain View was not required to pay anything except its own legal fees.