Police Brutality Dashed Olympic Dreams, Runner Says

(CN)  – A long-distance runner lost his chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio because Huntington Beach police officers slammed him to the ground and injured his knee and ankle, the athlete claims in court.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Santa Ana, Calif., federal court by brothers Stephan and Nathan Shay. Their older brother Ryan died after collapsing during Olympic marathon trials in 2007.

Several media outlets have profiled Stephan, who lived in a 1960s motor home he called “Lolita” while training last year.

Stephan says he was training for the Olympics in January 2016 when he saw his brother Nathan being detained by two Huntington Beach police officers, who had pulled him over under suspicion of drunk driving.

Nathan took two breath tests that showed he had not consumed any alcohol, according to the complaint.

Stephan claims he began recording his brother’s interaction with Officers Brandon D. Rockett and Daniel M. Subia before they told him to get off the sidewalk and stop filming.

Despite complying with the officers’ orders, the police “brutally grabbed Stephan Shay, threw and slammed him into the ground causing Stephan Shay to sustain injuries to his right shoulder, right knee, right hip, palm of his hand and left ankle,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit adds, “Officers Rockett and Subia also slammed Stephan Shay’s head to the ground causing great pain to the right side of his head. Stephan Shay had bloody lacerations to his entire body.”

The officers arrested Stephan and Nathan, despite the fact they had committed no crimes, according to the complaint, and Stephan was hospitalized for his injuries.

“As a result of the excessive force used on [Shay], he was unable to train for the Olympic Trials, which were 3 ½ weeks after the aforementioned incident,” the complaint says.

Stephan was able to compete for the trials, but says he “ran the slowest time he had ever run” because of his injuries, and he was not selected for the U.S. Olympic team.

According to the complaint, both officers have been the subject of other excessive force complaints by people in Huntington Beach.

The brothers sued the officers and city for Fourth Amendment excessive force, failure to intervene, First Amendment violations, illegal search, seizure and arrest. They are asking for punitive damages, among other relief.

The Shays are represented by Rodney S. Diggs of Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt in Los Angeles.

Huntington Beach did not immediately respond Wednesday to phone and email requests for comment.

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