Federal lawsuit filed against Palo Alto alleges excessive force by officers

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PALO ALTO (KRON) — The crux of a federal civil lawsuit filed against the City of Palo Alto is its police department, its chief, at least five other officers and an interaction back in February 2018 that left Gustavo Alvarez battered and bloodied.

“It makes me angry, it’s shocking, its disturbing and it’s disgusting,” said Alvarez’s attorney Cody Salfen. 

Alvarez is represented by the Salfen Law Firm, who also had the criminal case against Alvarez that started all of this dismissed in court late last year.

The civil case alleges excessive use of force.

“These officers have engaged in the highest form of misconduct, the highest form of dishonesty, and they have absolutely no business wearing a badge and pretending to be individuals who are honest to protect and serve,” the attorney said.

On the night in question, Salfen says Palo Alto police officer Christoper Conde confronted Alvarez in the front of his mobile home and accused alvarez of driving with a suspended license.

According to Salfen, the officer couldn’t verify for certain Alvarez was behind the wheel.     

Alvarez refused detention and goes inside his home.

The officer calls for back-up.

In a police report, Sergeant Wayne Benitez admits to breaking down the door, and pulling Alvarez out, which a judge later found was unlawful, leading to dropped charges in the criminal case.

“Gustavo was punched in the back in the kidney. None of the officers referenced the fact that Gustavo was slapped on the side of the head,” the attorney said.

Salfen admits his client has a criminal record, but not for violent offenses.

He also believes the officers treated him unfairly, partly because he is openly gay.

The Palo Alto city manager released a statement that says in part:

“The public should know that the police department has procedures to investigate allegations of misconduct thoroughly and to hold officers accountable if misconduct is determined to have occurred.”

“All of this conduct by the officers makes it very clear that they were motivated by their disgust for Gustavo, for his sexuality, for his race, and for his socioeconomic status,” his attorney said.

Salfen says both sides are due in court next month.

Sergeant Benitez is the only person from the police department placed on leave.

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