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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cop Who Kicked Cyclist's Ass Used Excessive Force, Court Says

Posted By on Wed, Mar 7, 2012 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge They asked for it - FLICKR/BIKEPORTLAND.ORG

Is it that bicycle riders have a toxic relationship with motorists, or is it that bicycle riders have a toxic relationship with anyone who isn't also on a bike?

Nonsense. As any Wiggle rider knows, bike riders can easily turn on each other, too. But things can go very south very quickly with any bike-vs-the-world encounter. Just ask Danny Pina: He was stopped by San Jose police while riding his bicycle for a missing headlamp, but found himself accused of being a gang member and then hit so hard in the face and arm that his nose was broken and his elbow dislocated.

A federal jury gave Piña a cash award and found the cop in question guilty of excessive force, a good three years after the encounter.

Piña was stopped by Officer Allan De La Cruz and his partner Jean Jimenez on the night of April 19, 2009, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The cops used Piña's missing headlamp as a legal pretext for stopping him, but did so after misidentifying him as a gang member, the newspaper reported. Such stops are used by cops to find drugs or weapons they might not otherwise find, police say.

San Jose police maintained that Piña resisted arrest -- he was ultimately never charged with a crime -- but neighbors testified hearing him ask cops, "Why did you punch me?" and "Why did you hit me in the head?", the Merc reported.

Neither question was answered at the scene or in court, so a federal jury awarded Piña $11,000 in damages, plus $100,000-plus in court costs. De La Cruz was found guilty of excessive force; Jimenez was not.

That's about double the settlement he was offered by the city, plus the six figures to his attorneys. San Jose police declined to comment.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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