(CN) – A federal judge in San Francisco largely refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing police of yanking a man from a parked Cadillac without probable cause, and punching and “stomping” him until he blacked out.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero said there were too many disputed facts to grant the San Francisco officers’ motion to dismiss most of the claims brought by Malehki Loharsingh.
According to Loharsingh, he and his nephew were listening to music and “freestyle rapping” in his girlfriend’s parked Cadillac when they saw officers pull over a nearby Honda Civic.
He said the officers suddenly turned toward the Cadillac with their guns drawn and ordered them to “Get the fuck out of the car.”
The officers claimed they saw Loharsingh duck down suspiciously when they stopped the Honda. The police were allegedly nervous about turning their backs on the Cadillac occupants to confront the suspects in the Honda, so three officers went to talk to Loharsingh and his nephew while another officer kept an eye on the Honda.
Loharsingh said the officers pulled him from the car by his arm, punched him in the side of the head, and kicked and “stomped” him as he lay on face-down on ground until he blacked out. When he came to, he was in handcuffs. He said officer told him that he’d had a seizure, though he has no history of seizures or blackouts.
Police found two bags of marijuana on Loharsingh’s nephew, Jemahl, but both men maintained that Loharsingh was unaware of his nephew’s drugs.
Officer Cristina Franco admitted to forcibly removing Loharsingh from the Cadillac, but insisted that she never struck him. Officer Ernest Trapsi, who primarily spoke to the nephew, backed up this claim. Franco said Loharsingh refused to put his hands up, appeared to reach for a possible weapon, resisted her attempts to control his arms and tried to lunge over the passenger seat.
Officers later discovered that Loharsingh was on parole and his license was suspended.
Loharsingh sued officers Franco and Trapsi, the city and county of San Francisco, and the chief of the San Francisco Police Department for unreasonable search and seizure, battery, assault, false imprisonment, negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and violations of due process and equal protection.
Judge Spero said it wasn’t clear that the officers had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain and then arrest Loharsingh. The plaintiff’s parole status does not “retroactively give rise to probable cause for his arrest,” the judge added.
Spero refused to dismiss the excessive force claims against Franco, but noted that Trapsi was talking to the nephew when Loharsingh was pulled from the car, so Trapsi is entitled to summary judgment on that claim.
However, Spero ruled for the defendants on the equal protection and due process claims, because the plaintiff offered no evidence that he was arrested because he is black, and his due process claims “are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment.”