Political News

California city to pay teens $100,000 after rough arrest

Posted November 20, 2020 5:50 p.m. EST

— The California city of Delano has agreed to pay more than $100,000 to four teenagers to settle a lawsuit accusing police of falsely handcuffing and arresting them last year as the group walked to a school to pick up prom tickets.

Under terms of the agreement announced Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the city of 53,000 will also require its police officers to undergo training emphasizing they are prohibited from arresting members of the public for asserting their First Amendment rights.

In this case the ACLU said the teenagers exercised their right not to respond to officers' questions as they crossed a street in the city 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Bakersfield, saying simply they were doing nothing wrong.

When two of the four began filming the encounter they said an officer knocked a cellphone out of the hands of one of them. When another questioned why his friends were being hassled he said he was tackled, knocked to the ground and handcuffed along with others.

The four were eventually arrested on accusations of jaywalking, a charge the city agreed to drop as part of the settlement.

“Although the unlawful arrest and excessive use of force continues to impact the students, this settlement agreement allows for some closure,” ACLU attorney Stephanie Padilla said Friday. “It also importantly recognizes the need to train officers that members of the community have a right to record them engaged in their official duties and that this, in and of itself, does not constitute cause for detainment or arrest.”

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

The four were crossing a street April 11, 2019, on their way to the Wonderful College Prep Academy to pick up their prom passes.

The four, who are to be paid between $30,000 and $35,000 apiece, are Pablo Simental Jr., Edwin Ardon Jr., Isaac Ruiz and Isai Ruiz.

Simental, who said he was tackled, violently knocked to the ground and handcuffed after asking why the others were being arrested, originally brought the lawsuit, accusing the officers of false arrest and excessive force. He said he was held handcuffed at a juvenile hall for several hours before he was released to his family after his mother was told he'd been jaywalking.

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