OAKLAND, Calif., Nov. 20, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Civil rights law firm Haddad & Sherwin LLP announced today that their client, Carl Edwards, has reached a $750,000 settlement with the City of Vallejo and its police officers Spencer Muniz-Bottomley, Mark Thompson, Bret Wagoner, and Lieutenant Steve Darden. The civil rights lawsuit stemmed from a video-recorded incident on July 30, 2017, where these officers severely beat, choked, and injured Carl Edwards while he was peacefully fixing a fence on the front porch of his own house.
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One of Carl Edwards’ attorneys, Michael Haddad, says: “This is one of the most brutal, unprovoked police beatdowns I’ve seen in almost thirty years of practice. Vallejo needs to rein in its violent police officers.”
The Vallejo Police Department (VPD) currently is under review by the California Department of Justice for its pattern of questionable and unlawful police shootings and force incidents. The San Francisco Chronicle recently detailed the VPD’s long history of aggressive detentions and attacks against people not committing crimes and for escalating minor infractions into violent encounters. As a result, 60 excessive force claims were filed against VPD officers between 2014 and 2019, a staggering amount in a city with a population of only 122,000. The VPD also has come under fire for permitting a culture where many officers allegedly bent the tips of their badges and celebrated with barbecues to commemorate when they killed someone. Two of the officers sued here, Mark Thompson and Steve Darden, were implicated in the badge bending scandal. Darden was promoted to Lieutenant in February 2020. Bottomley is now a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy.
The incident with Carl Edwards started with a neighbor’s 911 call that a man in black jeans and a white tank top was shooting rocks from a slingshot at her boys. Officers Thompson and Wagoner arrived first and were told by the caller that Carl, who was working on his fence at the time, was not the suspect. They radioed Officer Bottomley to “go contact the guy across the street, brown pants, gray shirt,” describing Carl, wearing different clothes than the suspect. Officer Bottomley’s body camera captured him approaching Carl on Carl’s front porch, while Carl stood passively. Without any provocation, Bottomley put Carl into a carotid hold, causing Carl to briefly pass out. Carl woke up on the ground with Bottomley pummeling him. Officers Thompson and Wagoner quickly joined in. Wagoner used a second carotid hold on Carl while other officers beat him. Steve Darden, a sergeant at that time, arrived and punched Carl several times while other officers held him down.
An eyewitness, Paul Ghandi, stood across the street and made a cell phone video of incident, because he thought the officers were going to kill Edwards. Mr. Ghandi testified officers beat Carl like he was “a hard core criminal.” Carl ended up handcuffed, with his face covered in his own blood, as Officer Bottomley knelt on his neck.
Afterward, Officers Thompson and Wagoner solicited the two boys who were the victims in the original slingshot call – one ten years old and the other with severe developmental disabilities – to vaguely describe Carl as the suspect, while their mother protested that it was someone else. Officer Bottomley had Carl charged with multiple felonies, claiming he assaulted the children as well as officers. After fourteen months, all charges were dismissed for “lack of sufficient evidence.”
Carl Edwards sustained a fractured nose, multiple lacerations and contusions, and injury to his shoulder. The incident has caused Carl to decide to move away from Vallejo.
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