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Overkill on Baby’s Bike-Riding Daddy

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Police choked a man until he was unconscious because he was riding a bicycle with his baby in a baby carrier, but without a helmet, the father claims in court.

In his federal lawsuit, Takuro Hashitaka claims he was biking to a grocery story in San Francisco with his 10-month-old son, Moku, when San Francisco police Officers Anthony Bautista and Brendan Caraway drove into the bike lane and almost hit them.

Hashitaka says he gave the officers an "annoyed" look, upon which they returned and asked why his baby, seated against his chest in a "Baby Bjorn" carrier, wasn't wearing a bike helmet.

Takuro said he was not familiar with a helmet law for babies and asked for an explanation.

"Caraway responded that he didn't have to explain anything," the complaint states.

Then the situation escalated. The officers turned on their flashing lights, "got out and immediately grabbed Takuro's wrists, telling him that he was going to be arrested and that Child Protective Services (CPS) would take Moku," the complaint states. "They never tried to explain what was going on, never asked Takuro to lift Moku out of the baby carrier, and never asked if there was another parent nearby who could take Moku."

Several other officers, including police Sgt. Robert Imbellino, took Takuro to the ground, and Caraway choked him until he was unconscious, according to the complaint. Takuro recovered, but says he was choked two more times as Bautista and Peralta traded turns cutting a crying Moku out of his carrier, instead of "unsnapping it and lifting the baby out."

Officers handcuffed Takuro and wrapped a hobble around his legs, as he begged them to call his wife who was only a block away.

Family & Children's Service called Takuro's wife, Jessica, two hours later and told her that, "the police had said her husband was drunk and had hit a police car on his bike," according to the complaint.

The agency determined that the complaint of child neglect was unfounded and returned Moku to his parents, Hashitaka says.

"In her report, the CPS worker described Moku as a beautiful, healthy, clean and well-groomed baby boy, and both parents as loving and caring toward him," the complaint states. "Family & Children's Services did not find defendants' allegations to constitute child abuse or neglect."

Takuro, who suffered neck and hand injuries, spent the night in jail, but was never charged with a crime.

He says his arrest was brutal and unjustified, and that the "forceful" removal of his child has caused him emotional distress and anxiety.

The Hashitakas sued Officers Caraway, Bautista, Imbellino and Michael Peralta, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, and the City and County of San Francisco.

They seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery, false imprisonment, negligence, violation of the Ralph Civil Rights Act and the Bane Civil Rights Act.

The Ralph Act ensures all citizens the right "to be free from violence and intimidation by threat of violence because of their actual or perceived race, color, ancestry and/or national origin," according to the complaint.

The Bane Act is similar, protecting "peaceable exercise and enjoyment of rights" from "threats, intimidation and coercion."

The Hashitakas are represented by Rachel Lederman and Alexsis Beach, in San Francisco.

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