Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Children Can Sue Officers on Abuse Claims

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge dismissed civil rights claims against all but two Sonoma County sheriff's officers accused of abusing children carrying supplies to make posters to protest another officer's fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.

Jose Luis Godoy and three minors claim Officer Mathew Lupton pointed a gun at Godoy after he was handcuffed, and Lupton's supervisor, Sgt. Dave Pederson, "acquiesced in the constitutional violation."

They were friends of Andy Lopez, who was shot to death in October 2013 by a Sonoma County sheriff's officer. Officer Erick Gelhaus killed Lopez on Oct. 22, 2013 as Lopez carried an Airsoft gun that looked like an AK-47 across a vacant lot in Santa Rosa. The police killing prompted protests across California.

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in July 2014 that she would not prosecute Gelhaus, and in July 2015 the FBI said Gelhaus would not face federal charges either. The Lopez family filed a civil lawsuit in November 2013.

Godoy and the three minors participated in protests against their friend's killing. They say that as Godoy drove them home on Jan. 9, 2014, after they bought supplies to make protest posters, officers pulled them over, with guns drawn, and told them to "put your fucking hands up, now!" and to "get on the fucking ground" - orders they followed.

They were handcuffed, searched, manhandled, interrogated and threatened: an officer told one of the two girls involved that "she was now registered as a 'gang member,'" though she is not, they said in their original complaint.

The original defendants include the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department, the Santa Rosa Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, and seven other officers.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick dismissed the claims against the seven other officers with prejudice in his Jan. 22 order.

He allowed one charge each to remain against Officers Lupton and Pederson, and gave the plaintiffs 20 days to amend their complaint to strengthen it, as they alleged at oral argument on Jan. 6 that they could do so.

They filed a second amended complaint in August last year after Orrick gave them leave to amend.

This time, Orrick refused to dismiss the Fourth Amendment claim against Mathew Lupton, who allegedly pointed a gun at Godoy after he was handcuffed; and refused to dismiss the supervisory responsibility claim against Sgt. Pedersen, who "allegedly acquiesced in the constitutional violation."

"While Pedersen may not have personally participated in Lupton's gun pointing, Pedersen's conduct can plausibly be considered 'acquiescence in the constitutional deprivation' or 'knowingly refusing to terminate' actions which Pedersen reasonably should have known would result in a constitutional violation," Orrick wrote.

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