Attorney John Burris asks city for $1 million.
Claiming he was manhandled, hurt, and had his dignity and rights stripped away, Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi is suing the Berkeley Police Department and the city for more than $1 million over his arrest last year during a demonstration outside the KPFA studios on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“My sense is that this was a terrible wrong,” attorney John Burris said Tuesday. Burris is representing Jacobs-Fantauzzi.
Police detained some 100 protesters during the KPFA demonstrations last summer, arising from a dispute between station employees, volunteers and listeners on the one hand and their governing board on the other.
Jacobs-Fantuazzi was treated arrestees were, Burris said. Jacobs Fantauzzi “failed the attitude test,” the attorney said, explaining that Jacobs-Fantauzzi may have been arrested because the police did not like his attitude.
“It happens mostly to African American men,” Burris said.
The suit claims excessive force against arresting officers. “...despite the fact that Kahlil Jacobs-Fantauzzi offered no resistance, defendant police officers brutally assaulted and attacked (the) plaintiff, threw him to the ground, violently wrenched his arms behind his back, handcuffed him, pulled his jacked over his head, dragged (the) plaintiff by this arms and jacket across two lanes of traffic and to the opposite side of Grand Auto’s parking lot and threw him face first into a police van,” the suit says.
Filed last week in U.S. District Court, the lawsuit also accuses officers of taunting Jacobs-Fantauzzi after his arrest. “How does it feel now that you’re in my territory?” said one officer, according to the suit. The claim also says police denied the plaintiff both medical attention and access to a telephone after his arrest.
Police spokesperson Capt. Bobby Miller declined to comment on the suit which names Chief Dash Butler, Lt. Russell Lopes, Sgt. Randolph Files and Officer Kevin Schofield as well of the city of Berkeley as defendants.
City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque said the city has not yet been served with a copy of the document and could not comment on it. However, referring to Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s May court victory, when a jury found the 24 year old not guilty of delaying or obstructing a police officer, Albuquerque noted that the outcome of that case would not affect the lawsuit.
“The mere fact that he was acquitted in the other case has no bearing (on this one),” she said. In a separate but related matter, the City Council asked the city manager to investigate officer training and procedures relative to the arrest. Albuquerque said the investigation has not been completed. She added, however, that if officer training were changed as a result of the investigation, it would have no bearing on the case.
Burris said his office has 30 days to serve the lawsuit, then the city has 90 days to respond. A status hearing on the case will take place in about three months.