A Palo Alto resident is claiming that he was unlawfully detained and then beaten up by police officers near his mobile home, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court.
The resident, Gustavo Alvarez, also alleges in the lawsuit that he was "brutally injured" during the attack and that officers subsequently "mischaracterized and lied about the incident" to conceal their unlawful conduct and to cause him to be prosecuted.
The incident allegedly occurred on Feb. 17, 2018, when Alvarez claims he was stopped in the driveway of his mobile home by police Officer Christopher Conde, who told him that he had observed him driving on a public roadway even though he was known to have a suspended license. Alvarez then allegedly went inside his home, closed the front door and told Conde that "you cannot come into my house."
Conde then allegedly called other officers to respond to the scene. Once they arrived, officers allegedly held Alvarez at gunpoint, kicked in and damaged his front door, entered his home, "ripped" him out of the building and slammed him onto the front hood of his parked vehicle, a Ford Focus, which was in his driveway.
The lawsuit claims the officers then proceeded to search him, his home and his vehicle and, despite his attempt to comply, "repeatedly assaulted and threatened Alvarez throughout the melee." It also alleges that Sgt. Wayne Benitez, the patrol supervisor, punched Alvarez in the back with a closed fist while the latter was face down on the hood of the car and, after Alvarez requested that his father record the interaction, slapped him across the side of his head and face.
The lawsuit claims that Benitez also slammed Alvarez face down on the hood of the car, causing his head and face to collide with the windshield while yelling statements such as, "So you think you're a tough guy, huh?" and "You're going to be bleeding a whole lot more." Officers then allegedly had the vehicle towed and booked Alvarez in jail. The court ultimately dismissed all criminal charges against Alvarez after a judge ruled that officers lacked proper justification to initiate the detention.
Alvarez' lawsuit names the responding officers along with police Chief Robert Jonsen and the city of Palo Alto as defendants.
The lawsuit states that the incident was recorded on Alvarez's home surveillance cameras, which he had installed "due to prior, repeated and ongoing harassment by the Palo Alto Police Department." Alvarez is also alleging that the officers' conduct was motivated by their "hatred and prejudice of homosexual males."
The lawsuit claims that after officers learned that Alvarez was homosexual, "he was mocked, made fun of and humiliated because of his sexual orientation."
The lawsuit also accuses the department of inadequately training its officers to prevent such behavior and of "deliberate indifference" to the officers' "constitutional violations," which include the unlawful detention.
This was not Alvarez's first encounter with police. In 2012, he was arrested after he allegedly rappelled into the former JJ&F Market on College Avenue using a satellite-dish cable, and tried to burglarize the market. After the break-in, which triggered the burglar alarm, an officer found Alvarez hiding behind the building.
Alvarez was reportedly an employee at JJ&F who was fired a few months prior to the store break-in after owners noticed forged checks, the market's owner told the Weekly in 2012.
The department declined the comment on the complaint, citing the pending litigation.