Fresno Settles Case For $500K After Officer Repeatedly Punched Teen in the Face
The city of Fresno will pay a half-million dollars to a teen struck several times by Fresno police during a 2019 arrest.
The settlement, which is expected to become official next week, happened before a federal trial was set to begin.
Attorney Warren Paboojian tells GV Wire the city will pay $500,000 to his client, London Wallace.
“(This) was about unnecessary excessive force and about the City and police department letting it happen and not punishing the responsible parties. This kind of unnecessary force is what causes distrust in our community regarding law enforcement,” Paboojian said in an email.
Four Officers Named in the Lawsuit
During a January 2019 probation sweep, Fresno police rounded up several suspects at an apartment complex. Body camera video showed a fight between officers and the then-17-year-old Wallace.
“Before Plaintiff could sit down, Fresno Police Department Officer Christopher Martinez attacked, punched and tackled Plaintiff to the ground resulting in serious injuries to Plaintiff, including but not limited to, a broken nose, bleeding and emotional distress,” the federal complaint filed by Wallace said.
Attorneys said Wallace was not a subject of the sweep. He was playing video games in a backroom at the time that officers entered.
Wallace was charged with obstruction of justice, but those charges were dropped.
Three other police officers were named in the lawsuit — Ricardo Loza, Michael Aguilar, and Patrick Feller.
The Fresno Police Department confirmed that they remain employed as officers.
Police chief Paco Balderrama had no comment, the department said. Mayor Jerry Dyer was chief at the time. Balderrama moved to Fresno to become chief in 2021.
Dyer, through a city spokeswoman, had no comment. Neither did the union representing the officers.
The trial was set to begin on Aug. 9 in the Fresno federal courtroom of Magistrate Judge Stanley Boone.
Independent Auditor: Martinez Used Excessive Force
No criminal charges were filed against the officers.
However, an internal affairs investigation found technical wrongdoing. The independent police auditor went further, saying Martinez used excessive force.
The police department’s internal affairs report found that Martinez violated department procedure by not activating a body camera and another officer did not use proper discretion when he shined a flashlight toward a resident attempting to video the arrests.
Then-chief Andy Hall overruled an internal affairs finding that Martinez also violated the department’s discretion policy.
Independent auditor John Gliatta disagreed with one aspect of the IA report. He found that Martinez used unreasonable force in subduing Wallace.
Gliatta’s review found that four of the seven punches Martinez threw at Wallace were not within department policy.
“Punches four through seven could have been avoided since (Wallace) was now bent over with his hand covering his head in an attempt to avoid the punches and was no longer being a threat. The punches were delivered over a two to three second period allowing enough time for (Martinez) to cease the punching action,” Gliatta wrote.
The Fresno City Council discussed the matter in a closed session on July 21. No announcement of a settlement was made at the time.