The city of Ventura has agreed to pay $175,000 to a man who alleged police illegally entered and searched his residence without a warrant, used excessive force and left him with lasting emotional distress.
In accepting the settlement, Andrew Scott Hernandez agreed to drop the case and forgo any future action. City Attorney Gregory Diaz announced the outcome this week, noting it was purely an “economic” decision.
In part, the settlement says it is “not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing, but is in compromise of a disputed claim and is intended to forever terminate the instant litigation in any form.”
Hernandez was charged with resisting arrest after the February 2015 encounter, but the jury couldn’t reach an unanimous decision and the case was dismissed. He sued the city in May 2015.
The situation started after someone saw Hernandez smoking something in a car with a child and called police. The caller included Hernandez’s license plate, which Ventura officers David Dickey and Chris Bridges used to track down to where he lived in Ventura. They asked Hernandez what he was smoking. After he told them it was tobacco out of a vaporizer, officers asked to see it. Bridges then asked to smell inside the vehicle. Both sides agree on that.
What happened next is where the sides diverge.
Hernandez claims he told them the car belonged to his father, with whom he lived, and he would have to call him for permission. He went inside the house to call, and that’s when police unlawfully entered, the suit alleges.
It alleges Dickey grabbed Hernandez’s arm and after being told to leave, grabbed a car seat with Hernandez’s baby inside. When Hernandez tried to take the baby, police “punched Mr. Hernandez in the face, threw him to the group, and smashed his face into a wine rack,” the court documents allege.
Officers deny any of that happened but acknowledge what happened next, which is that Bridges used his taser on Hernandez. The officers say Hernandez was warned first and that it would be used if he continued to resist, according to court documents.
Hernandez was taken to a hospital, the suit alleges, and officers illegally searched his house, his diaper bag and his baby without a warrant.
The suit goes on to claim that the city is culpable because it permits tasers to be used when there is no physical threat and used when suspects are not fleeing or about to flee a scene.
The city disagrees.
“The decision to settle this case was a difficult one and made strictly for economic reasons,” Diaz said during Monday night’s City Council meeting. “The city believes the police officers involved acted appropriately and within policy.”
The council, in voting to accept the settlement, made clear it supported the Ventura Police Department, Police Chief Ken Corney and the officers involved, Diaz said.