News

Man alleges excessive force, civil rights violations by Palo Alto police

In federal lawsuit, plaintiff says officers broke his arm in 2013 traffic stop

A Los Altos Hills man is charging that Palo Alto police officers used excessive force and violated his civil rights in connection with an Aug. 3, 2013, traffic stop in which he was allegedly pushed against a squad car and had his arm broken by officers.

In a lawsuit against Palo Alto and Santa Clara County law enforcement officials filed Monday, July 28, in U.S. District Court, Tyler Harney, who was a passenger in the car that was stopped, recounted his version of events.

The lawsuit alleges that at least two police officers pushed Harney face forward against a squad car, "apparently as a prelude to handcuffing him and arresting him," and he began convulsing uncontrollably as a result of a seizure disorder. The officers then forced him to the ground, face first, and one put his knee on Harney's back and neck, the lawsuit alleges. One officer pulled on his arm and twisted it back, saying, "Stop, or I'm going to break your arm," or "words to that effect," according to the lawsuit. The officer then did break Harney's arm, the lawsuit reads.

Harney said he was taken and kept in shackles at Stanford University Hospital, where doctors operated on his injured arm and damaged shoulder.

Harney said he was taken on Aug. 7 to Santa Clara County Jail, where sheriff's officers "exhibited deliberate indifference" to his medical needs before releasing him on Aug. 8.

Harney's earlier claims for compensation were rejected by the City of Palo Alto in February and by Santa Clara County in January.

His federal lawsuit seeks damages for his injuries, which he said required three surgeries, as well as pain, suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment, medical expenses, loss of income and deprivation of his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

According to the lawsuit, the officers "wrongfully and without justification" cited Harney for battery on a police officer and resisting or obstructing a police officer. The lawsuit says that Harney acted "peacefully and lawfully" and never threatened or interfered with the officers.

Claudia Keith, chief communications officer in the Palo Alto City Manager's Office, said the city has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

— Palo Alto Weekly Staff

Comments

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2014 at 9:46 am

All of the details about how the situation progressed from a passenger riding in a car that was stopped by police ended up with a broken arm seem to be missing.

> According to the lawsuit, the officers "wrongfully and without
> justification" cited Harney for battery on a police officer and
> resisting or obstructing a police officer. The lawsuit says that
> Harney acted "peacefully and lawfully" and never threatened or
> interfered with the officers.

A lot of daylight between the two sides of this story.

OK--where is the dashcam video from the police cruiser? Time to see what really happened.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2014 at 9:47 am

This is what a traffic stop is like?!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:07 am

Unless subject to a field sobriety test, officer usually instruct the driver to stay in the vehicle. The part of the story where the driver exited his vehicle is missing.

Where's the dashcam or wearable video? If Palo Alto can spend $4.5 Million on a lobby remodel, it can surely equip its squad cars and officers with video cameras.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cam
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:09 am

A traffic stop can easily get like this if people become belligerent. We don't know what happened between the car being pulled over and the officer using force.
Nothing will be resolved until THAT info comes out. It could go either way so we need the dash cam video.


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Posted by More Deatils
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:34 am

It would be nice to know why this person was wanted and what his history was. That would likely explain a lot. All we have here is a regurgitation of the lawsuit allegation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by huh
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:35 am

I believe the word is 'prelude' not 'preclude.' Is this in the lawsuit or is it the reporter's mistake?

If the former, I'd get another lawyer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by some side info
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:37 am

The following post dated Feb 19, 2013 in the Dulles County news (Oregon)"Tyler John Harney, 20, Los Altos, Calif., was processed at the regional jail Friday on a Sherman County court commitment for probation violation."

Hm. On probation for who-knows-what before this alleged incident with PA Police, who are innocent until proven guilty.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:42 am

Never underestimate how much police officers LOVE to exercise their authority, to insist on docile compliance, to brook no verbal opposition, and to use their physical strength to "put citizens in their place" if they can find an excuse for doing so. Beneath the veneer of legal authority and rhetoric of police professionalism is the fact that males love to physically dominate other males. Cities often hire men as police officers that, lacking verbal skills, are just looking for ways to exercise and display their physical superiority and dominance over "those they serve."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

Their is no field sobriety test when a person is a passenger -- he was a passenger. My guess is that he was asked to stay in the car but got out anyway and argued with the officers. Someone on probation must follow lawful requests by police, so leaving the car alone could be a violation of probation. Traveling with a felon could also be a violation, although nothing is said about the driver of the vehicle.

This article lacks many of the "who, what, where, why" details typical of a well-written news report.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 30, 2014 at 10:50 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amazed and amused...
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 30, 2014 at 11:22 am

I'm constantly amazed and amused at how often Palo Altans (or maybe all human beings) feel required to spin out an entire elaborate scenario, along with firm conclusions and opinions, based on very limited facts.

This article looks to me like a simple first report of a lawsuit that was just filed, not even served on the defendant yet. A good report, like this one, will state the basic allegations and that the action was filed, by whom, against whom, when and in what court. That's all. At this point few people except the principals know much else. Yet some of us already have complete theories about everything ranging from race politics to police
behavior and beyond. Hmm...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CAS
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 30, 2014 at 11:24 am

PA Police are so professional. Harney is probably not "recounting" the whole story. That would be my bet!!! He wouldn't want me on his jury that's for sure!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 30, 2014 at 11:34 am

[Post removed.]


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