News

City reaches settlement with victim of violent arrest outside Happy Donuts

Palo Alto to pay $150K to Julio Arevalo for arrest that left him with fractured orbital bone

Julio Arevalo was taken down to the ground and handcuffed during an arrest on July 10, 2019 at Happy Donuts in Palo Alto that prompted him to later file a claim against the city. Courtesy Palo Alto Police Department.

Palo Alto reached a settlement on Wednesday with Julio Arevalo, who suffered a facial bone fracture at the hands of a city police officer during an arrest outside Happy Donuts in July 2019.

Under the terms of the settlements, the city will pay $150,000 and Arevalo will dismiss his suit against the city and release all claims against individuals involved in the incident. The city will not make any admissions of fault or liability, according to City Attorney Molly Stump.

The full settlement agreement will be prepared and executed in the coming weeks and submitted for court approval.

Arevalo, who was 23 years old at the time of the incident, was arrested by former Agent Thomas DeStefano in front of the doughnut shop at 3916 El Camino Real. During the arrest, which was captured on surveillance video and on DeStefano's body camera, DeStefano asked Arevalo if he was on probation and then attempted to detain him.

Arevalo then tried to walk away from DeStefano, who followed him and tried to pin his arm behind his back to detain him. As Arevalo continued to ask why he was being arrested, DeStefano took him down, flipped him to the ground and told him to "stop resisting."

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Arevalo was then taken to the police station, at which point his face began to swell and he was transported to a hospital for treatment for a fractured orbital socket, according to the police.

DeStefano, who left the department in September 2021, also alleged that Arevalo may have been involved in a drug transaction, though Arevalo was never charged and the video doesn't offer any evidence to substantiate that claim.

Arevalo filed a suit against the city in November 2019, accusing the Police Department of violating his civil rights. The claim stated that he was violently attacked and "falsely arrested" by DeStefano, who then included information in his report that he knew was false. The suit was seeking $3.85 million for "personal injury, emotional distress, property damage, other damages and the like."

The City Council discussed the lawsuit from Arevalo and the settlement during a closed session at its May 9 meeting.

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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City reaches settlement with victim of violent arrest outside Happy Donuts

Palo Alto to pay $150K to Julio Arevalo for arrest that left him with fractured orbital bone

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, May 19, 2022, 9:13 am

Palo Alto reached a settlement on Wednesday with Julio Arevalo, who suffered a facial bone fracture at the hands of a city police officer during an arrest outside Happy Donuts in July 2019.

Under the terms of the settlements, the city will pay $150,000 and Arevalo will dismiss his suit against the city and release all claims against individuals involved in the incident. The city will not make any admissions of fault or liability, according to City Attorney Molly Stump.

The full settlement agreement will be prepared and executed in the coming weeks and submitted for court approval.

Arevalo, who was 23 years old at the time of the incident, was arrested by former Agent Thomas DeStefano in front of the doughnut shop at 3916 El Camino Real. During the arrest, which was captured on surveillance video and on DeStefano's body camera, DeStefano asked Arevalo if he was on probation and then attempted to detain him.

Arevalo then tried to walk away from DeStefano, who followed him and tried to pin his arm behind his back to detain him. As Arevalo continued to ask why he was being arrested, DeStefano took him down, flipped him to the ground and told him to "stop resisting."

Arevalo was then taken to the police station, at which point his face began to swell and he was transported to a hospital for treatment for a fractured orbital socket, according to the police.

DeStefano, who left the department in September 2021, also alleged that Arevalo may have been involved in a drug transaction, though Arevalo was never charged and the video doesn't offer any evidence to substantiate that claim.

Arevalo filed a suit against the city in November 2019, accusing the Police Department of violating his civil rights. The claim stated that he was violently attacked and "falsely arrested" by DeStefano, who then included information in his report that he knew was false. The suit was seeking $3.85 million for "personal injury, emotional distress, property damage, other damages and the like."

The City Council discussed the lawsuit from Arevalo and the settlement during a closed session at its May 9 meeting.

Comments

John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 19, 2022 at 9:44 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 9:44 am

Known violent domestic abuser and addict is hanging around an area known to be frequented by criminals. Resists lawful commands to comply and is taken to the ground. City pays him 5 years wages. If I was a cop in our town I would avoid talking to criminals or attempting to interdict crime until I absolutely had to and even then if they gave any indication of resistance at all, I’d back off and get a coffee. See shady potential auto burglars in a parking lot? Drive on by. Transient screaming and pooping on a University Ave sidewalk? That’s mental health, don’t bother him. town loves their crooks and it shows.


Jason Layne
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 19, 2022 at 9:58 am
Jason Layne, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 9:58 am

This unfortunate and costly incident could have been avoided had the officer done some preliminary research prior to attacking Mr. Arevelo.

Agent DeStefano should have checked the CLETS database to confirm whether Mr. Arevalo was actually on probation rather than simply asking him directly.

Upon confirmation of probation along with grounds for an arrest, this incident would not have cost the city any legal reparations.

The police need to exercise more discretion.


Judy Beckham
Registered user
Community Center
on May 19, 2022 at 10:33 am
Judy Beckham, Community Center
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 10:33 am

This incident sounds like an excessive use of force that the city attorneys acknowledged and settled accordingly.

Regardless of one's criminal background, probable cause is warranted for the police to either question or arrest an individual and there appears to be no logical reasons cited to justify former Agent DeStefano's actions.


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 19, 2022 at 10:58 am
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 10:58 am

Thankfully John you are not an officer in the PA police department. We have a case here where an officer, DeStefano,
violated ethical conduct by fracturing Arevalo’s orbital facial bone fracture. This violence was documented on the surveillance video. Now The city attorney will not admit culpability. Why is Molly Stump working hard to obfusate this obvious act of violence upon a citizen? I claim that racism is a factor. DeStefano falsely accused the victim of drug dealing yet there was no evidence and no charges were filed. Had the victim been white would the officer engage in brutal aggression? I think not.


Local Resident
Registered user
Community Center
on May 19, 2022 at 11:18 am
Local Resident, Community Center
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:18 am

I think the city council and attorney made the wrong decision by agreeing to settle.

We need to stop viewing folks who physically resists lawful detention or arrest and get hurt as victims.

Arevalo was on parole where the conditions of his parole is he could be stopped and searched at any time without cause. So DeStefano tried to stop and search him because he recognized him as a parolee. Arevalo illegally forcefully resists arrest, is hurt in the process and gets paid this big settlement.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2022 at 11:26 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:26 am

The PAPD got lucky here. Police policies have been upgraded since this awful incident. Had this happened now, this small amount in damages would have likely been much greater for Mr. Arevalo.

It is sickening that the City insists on confidential settlements, given residents pay the price for PAPD’s violent transgressions. We will never know the reasoning that concluded this civil rights lawsuit. We only know our City once again insists on not admitting fault or liability (i.e.responsibility).

Let’s hope more accountability will be taking hold in the PAPD and there will be less need for lawsuits. And some bad apples are gone.


WhatAboutme
Registered user
Midtown
on May 19, 2022 at 11:32 am
WhatAboutme, Midtown
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:32 am

Arevalo WAS on amphetamines, that has NOT been disputed.

Interesting (not), but predictable how the case is now settled, when elections are around the corner.

News agencies / headlines / of 'police brutality'. This guy's lawyers wanted 10 Million... while he's at "happy donuts" , and yelling/screaming WAY before police get involved... and these lawyers see it as a fantastic payday, "racist".

No.. ALB are if you out at night, alone, on drugs/amphetamines, and you think if you were white police would not do anything?

You are going to be under suspicion .. I doubt any young person would want to look into a career in law enforcement,after the "BLM" movement. We cannot have it both ways...if you want to phone the police because your bicycle Is stolen and have them come out, support your local leaders.

Not all police are racists...doubting this officer was either! What proof does above poster have?





John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 19, 2022 at 11:32 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:32 am

Hopefully the word gets out to the other probationers/parolees of the Bay that if you go to PA and the police attempt to stop you, walk away, then scream “no!” repeatedly, grab onto anything to resist handcuffing, when force is used to overcome your resistance… get paid! … and some citizens will still jump to your defense.

It’s so weird that crime is up, right?


Local Resident
Registered user
Community Center
on May 19, 2022 at 11:38 am
Local Resident, Community Center
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:38 am

The key point is DeStefano did not use excessive force to lawfully detain Arevalo.


WhatAboutme
Registered user
Midtown
on May 19, 2022 at 11:53 am
WhatAboutme, Midtown
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 11:53 am

"It is sickening that the City insists on confidential settlements, given residents pay the price for PAPD’s violent transgressions. We will never know the reasoning that concluded this civil rights lawsuit. We only know our City once again insists on not admitting fault or liability (i.e.responsibility)".

xxxxxxx
I think we ALL know the reasons -- Alvarado was a parolee, and was on drugs at time of arrest... i.e. they settled for LESS than the lawyers asked.

What more "accountability" do you need? This criminal was PAID with our tax monies, (your if you are paying, I assume).
Do you honestly believe a 4 year-old case with lawyers would settlef or this amt. (expected 10M) if there was a valid case, Felix?

I would expect more critical thinking on PA citizens.


Carol Reed
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 19, 2022 at 3:33 pm
Carol Reed, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 3:33 pm

> probable cause is warranted for the police to either question or arrest an individual and there appears to be no logical reasons cited to justify former Agent DeStefano's actions.

EXCEPT...

>>Arevalo was on parole where the conditions of his parole is he could be stopped and searched at any time without cause. So DeStefano tried to stop and search him because he recognized him as a parolee. Arevalo illegally forcefully resists arrest, is hurt in the process and gets paid this big settlement.

• Arevalo should have cooperated with Agent DeStefano regardless of the situation.

If there were no legitimate grounds to either cite or arrest him, Agent DeStefano would have had no reason to pursue the matter further.

As a Barron Park resident, I support Agent DeStefano's actions providing he did not use excessive force in restraining Arevelo as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If Arevelo was up to no good (and this is subject to speculation), I'm glad that he was stopped for questioning.


Sam Price
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 19, 2022 at 3:47 pm
Sam Price, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 3:47 pm

For the city were to defend this case on behalf of Agent DeStefano, the legal expenses would have easily exceeded $150K.

Sometimes it's better just to cut and run (i.e settlement) as there will most likely be other cases of this nature on the horizon.

Just how much more money are Palo Alto residents willing to concede in order to settle these police-related lawsuits?


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on May 19, 2022 at 5:34 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 5:34 pm

Is "victim of violent arrest" a valid criminal charge? Or is it just something made up in recent years by flaky activists or 2nd rate journalists desperately trying to "save their world"? Their world can't be saved because it never existed. Even my world can't be saved because alt-Left and alt-Right cretins are determined to destroy it --- for different reasons, both of them specious. Sorry if this is cynical, but it is true. The USA is being torn apart by stupid, idealistic morons.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on May 19, 2022 at 6:28 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 6:28 pm

A parolee under the influence of drugs, resisting arrest and he walks away with $150K. Nice.


ArtL
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 19, 2022 at 8:11 pm
ArtL, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 19, 2022 at 8:11 pm

The funds for this settlement should come out of the retirement moneys of former Agent Thomas DeStefano, not from the taxpayers of Palo Alto.


Jacob Weis
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 20, 2022 at 7:34 am
Jacob Weis, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 7:34 am

Assuming that Arevalo was incoherent, high on meth, and resisting arrest, were there other alternative measures that could have been taken to subdue him?

Agent DeStefano physically assaulted Arevalo causing serious bodily injury...was the possible use of a Taser warranted in this situation?

The police have a tough job to do but they are not noted for using the least amount of deadly or physical force when confronting a suspect.

The actions of the PAPD officers should be reflective of the Palo Alto community which is known for its compassion, absence of racial bigotries, and progressive thought processes.

There is no room for rogue cops who cost the city and its taxpayers excessive legal expenditures and settlements for their use of excessive and unwarranted physical force.


Adrianne Balfour
Registered user
Downtown North
on May 20, 2022 at 8:05 am
Adrianne Balfour, Downtown North
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 8:05 am

Are police officers required to take sensitivity training courses?

This type of curriculum might assist in the prevention of future abuses of power and subsequent lawsuits.

By reducing the longstanding adversarial relationship between the police and the public, encounters with law enforcement would be less stressful and create a more positive atmosphere.


Aaron Levine
Registered user
Stanford
on May 20, 2022 at 9:43 am
Aaron Levine, Stanford
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 9:43 am

"Is "victim of violent arrest" a valid criminal charge?"

"...DeStefano, violated ethical conduct by fracturing Arevalo’s orbital facial bone fracture. This violence was documented on the surveillance video."

• If unnecessary force was utilized, then the answer is an obvious...yes.

Given the Rodney King, Oscar Grant, and George Floyd incidents (among countless others) police officers need to exercise more discretion and self-control especially when dealing with unarmed detainees regardless of the situation.

A civilized police force is the sign of a civilized society and community.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2022 at 11:28 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 20, 2022 at 11:28 am

"A civilized police force is the sign of a civilized society and community."

Indeed. And since this keeps making local tv news, it's not showing PA and/or its PD and city "leaders" to best advantage. Let's hope county voters are paying attention when it comes time for vote for county sheriff.


Allison Cooper
Registered user
Menlo Park
on May 21, 2022 at 11:50 am
Allison Cooper, Menlo Park
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 11:50 am

• Just how much more money are Palo Alto residents willing to concede in order to settle these police-related lawsuits?

•• The funds for this settlement should come out of the retirement moneys of former Agent Thomas DeStefano, not from the taxpayers of Palo Alto.

'Qualified Immunity' exempts police officers from civil misconduct claims.

Cities are held legally responsible for any improper police actions.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 21, 2022 at 2:14 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 2:14 pm

Web Link From nbcbarea.com

"‘The Fuse': Palo Alto Officer Facing Assault Charge Had Reputation for Using Force, Messages Show"

"He was officially known as Palo Alto Police Sgt. Wayne Benitez, but according to court filings in his ongoing criminal case, fellow officers within the department also referred to him as “The Fuse” and apparently celebrated his reputation for using force." ...

"BC Bay Area has previously reported on additional controversies involving Agent DeStefano, including a separate civil rights lawsuit alleging the officer broke a young man’s arm during a traffic stop. The plaintiff alleged he had a seizure during the stop and said DeStefano reacted by placing him in a hold that severely broke his arm.

As of September 2021, DeStefano is no longer with the department, according to the city, though officials won’t disclose the circumstances of his departure.

Attorneys representing Benitez and DeStefano did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s request for comment. Neither did Mullarkey when NBC Bay Area attempted to contact him directly through email.

Palo Alto Police Chief Robert Jonsen declined an interview request through a department spokesperson, citing the pending court cases.

Jonsen is now running for Santa Clara County Sheriff, seeking to fill the coming vacancy left by Sheriff Laurie Smith, who announced she will not run for reelection this year in the wake of several scandals during her time in office."


He's got a history and our "leaders" again refuse to comment on if he was allowed to retire with full benefits. Too bad Chief Jonsen's continuing his own tradition of stonewalling. I guess that's why they get the big bucks and we the taxpayers keep losing,


Cassandra Peterson
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 22, 2022 at 9:07 am
Cassandra Peterson, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 9:07 am

The police cam & surveillance videos as shown in the nbcbarea.com link are reasonably conclusive of what transpired during two separate police interventions involving former PAPD officers Sgt. Benitez and Agent DeStefano.

Very disturbing.


Burke Longley
Registered user
Los Altos
on May 22, 2022 at 1:12 pm
Burke Longley, Los Altos
Registered user
on May 22, 2022 at 1:12 pm

The only way to reduce these type of police-related infractions is through a comprehensive vetting/hiring process.

An absence of bigotry and proper temperament are paramount to being a respected member of law enforcement.


Erica Decker
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2022 at 9:09 am
Erica Decker, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 9:09 am

A nickname like 'The Fuse' conjures up thoughts and images of someone just ready and waiting to go off on someone else with minimal provocation.

If the shoe fits...


Chase Willingham
Registered user
Menlo Park
on May 23, 2022 at 9:57 am
Chase Willingham, Menlo Park
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 9:57 am

How many (or what percentage) of the PAPD officers actually reside in Palo Alto?

If the numbers are exceedingly low, this might explain a certain lack of empathy and sense of community bonding.


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