Melee on a Commuter Train
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A sheriff's deputy pepper-sprayed a married couple and beat the husband for holding train doors open for his wife, the husband claims in court.
Jeremy Ford sued San Mateo County Deputy Sheriff Michael Baron in Federal Court.
He claims Baron whaled on him on Dec. 15, 2011, in an incident that began when Ford held open a Caltrain door at a Redwood City station to stop the train from leaving without his wife, a few minutes before 10 p.m.
The Fords sued San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks and another deputy in February, in a similar federal lawsuit.
In the new lawsuit, Jeremy Ford says was on the train when the door began to close ahead of schedule. He put his hand between the doors to give his wife time to board.
Then a Caltrain employee told him he had to leave because he had delayed the train, Ford says in the lawsuit.
He claims the Caltrain worker "threatened to report the incident to the police," so he and his wife switched train cars to "avoid any further confrontation with the Caltrain employee."
Soon enough, Sheriff's Officers Irfan Zaidi and Baron told the Fords to leave the train, according to the lawsuit.
Zaidi is a defendant in the February lawsuit.
Jeremy Ford claims he "explained that nothing illegal had occurred and that the Caltrain employee was exaggerating the situation. After a brief verbal disagreement between plaintiff and the defendant deputies, Ms. Ford maneuvered past plaintiff and prepared to exit the train."
Jeremy Ford says he continued to object to being tossed off the train, and the deputies grabbed him "and threw him to the stair well of the train and forced him to the ground. The deputies then proceeded to shove plaintiff's face into the ground. Mr. Ford offered no resistance except voicing his objections to the situation."
After Zaidi punched him in the arm several times, Denise Ford re-entered the train and "tried to coax the deputies off her husband by showing them her boarding ticket explaining that they had a lawful right to be on the train. Mrs. Ford tried to tell the deputies that the train was leaving early and the Fords had done nothing wrong," according to the lawsuit.
The deputies ordered her off the train, then took Jeremy off the train in handcuffs.
Though Denise had left the train, Zaidi, "pushed her to the ground causing her to hit her head on the train deck," her husband says. "Plaintiff demanded the deputies stop the assault on his wife. Plaintiff then attempted to stand up from the bench. Baron then punched plaintiff in the face several times, breaking his nose. The deputy then pepper sprayed plaintiff while he was handcuffed. Mrs. Ford got off the ground and defended herself. Zaidi pepper sprayed her in the face," according to the complaint.
A Redwood City police officer came to assist Denise Ford and ordered a saline drip to help with the pepper spray burns.
The deputies took Denise Ford to the police station and Jeremy Ford to the hospital for medical observation. Zaidi then took Jeremy Ford to the police station.
Jeremy Ford claims he was left in a holding cell over night.
San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers told Courthouse News: "We are already defending the first lawsuit vigorously. Neither have any merit."
Beiers said the Fords' attorney had tried to add Baron to the first lawsuit but the judge did not allow it, as the attorney missed the deadline to do so.
According to Beiers, the county submitted a summary of facts in the first lawsuit that claims Jeremy Ford bit Baron, and that Baron hit him so Ford would stop biting him.
The defendants also claimed that Jeremy Ford tried to grab Baron's baton and Taser, which is why Baron used pepper spray.
The county also claims that the Fords had been drinking, that Jeremy Ford resisted arrest and was physically and verbally abusive and refused requests to leave the train.
According to Beiers, after Zaidi pepper-sprayed Jeremy Ford, Denise grabbed Baron's shoulders and swung at him, but missed. Denise then kicked Zaidi and advanced on him, while swinging her arms with closed fists, which is when Zaidi pepper-sprayed her, Beiers said.
County Counsel Beiers said the Fords both pleaded no-contest to resisting arrest, and that both were placed on probation and sentenced to county jail, Jeremy Ford for 20 days and Denise Ford for 10 days.
In the new lawsuit, Jeremy Ford seeks damages and punitive for civil rights violations.
He is represented by DeWitt Lacy, with the Law Offices of John Burris in Oakland, who declined to comment, other than citing the February lawsuit.