Federal Lawsuit Filed Today by LA Community Action Network, LA Catholic Worker, Four Homeless Plaintiffs, Against City of LA and Three Named LAPD Officers Over Property Confiscations, Wrongful Arrests, Endangerment of Life

California-centralA lawsuit filed today in Federal Court on behalf of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, LA Catholic Worker, and four homeless plaintiffs charges the City of Los Angeles along with LAPD officers Andrew Mathes, Sgt. Hamer, and Sgt. Richter1 of endangering the lives of the plaintiffs by wrongfully arresting them and by wrongfully confiscating and destroying their property, including medicine, blankets, tents, and other items necessary to the support of life. The plaintiffs’ attorneys are Carol Sobel and associates, Fernando Gaytan and Shayla Myers of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and Paul Hoffman and Catherine Sweetser. The inimitable Gale Holland has an excellent write-up in the Times but, as usual, it doesn’t include a link to the actual court filings, which is where I can help. The suit isn’t particularly on our BID-beat, but I’m going to get all the filings anyway, so I might as well make them available here. There are some excerpts after the break.

On December 15, 2015, Plaintiff MITCHELL was approached by a supervisor in the LAPD and asked if a specific cart belonged to him. Mr. MITCHELL responded that his carts were the two Hippie Kitchen carts and that the third cart, located on his other side, was not his. Despite his repeated insistence that the third cart did not belong to him, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for possession of a stolen shopping cart. Mr. MITCHELL was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. He watched as the officer directed that the property in all three carts – his two Hippie Kitchen carts and the third cart – be dumped out and then thrown in the back of a truck. Mr. MITCHELL’s property was not segregated from the property in the purportedly illegal shopping cart that belonged to another person. Although Mr. MITCHELL asked that the officer give him his backpack, with his medications, medical appointment papers and other personal items, his request was rejected.

LAPD Sgt. Jack Richter explaining that people on Skid Row are people.
LAPD Sgt. Jack Richter explaining that people on Skid Row are people.

While all of the City’s employees and agents were still on site, Mr. Aguirre, who was in medical distress but had been told what was going on with his property, returned to the scene to retrieve his property, He told the officer in charge at the scene, Sgt. Richter, that he needed his belongings. One of the individuals who had gone to get him also told the LAPD officers that Mr. Aguirre needed his medications, which were now in a bag with Mr. ROQUE’s property. Sgt. Richter ignored these entreaties, grabbed the bag with the commingled property and put it in the back of the LAPD truck, which then drove off. During all of this time, Mr. Aguirre was collapsed on the sidewalk, his pleas ignored by Sgt. Richter, who was standing right in front of him. Only after the property was removed did Sgt. Richter call an ambulance to take Mr. Aguirre to the hospital for emergency treatment.

Soon thereafter, LAPD Lieutenant Mathis
[sic] approached her about a silver shopping cart about five to six feet away from Ms. COLEMAN. She told Lt. Mathis [sic] that the cart did not belong to her and that she did not know whose it was. Lt. Mathis [sic] responded by insisting that the silver cart was hers now and that she had too much property. He then placed her under arrest for possession of a stolen shopping cart. Although possession of a stolen shopping cart is an infraction under the Los Angeles Municipal Code, in order to be able to arrest her, officers charged Ms. COLEMAN with violating a provision of the California Business and Professions Code, a nearly identical state law that allows the violation to be charged as a misdemeanor and therefore, result in arrest. While Ms. COLEMAN was being arrested, she asked to grab her medication and to allow her to use her walker. The officers refused both requests.

Ms. COLEMAN was held in custody for two days, and was finally released on Sunday, February 14, 2016. When she was released, she had no medications or other equipment needed for her medical conditions, even though the LAPD was aware of her medical situation and she was provided some treatments while in custody. She was given a property receipt that listed only that “multiple” bags were stored at the off-site property storage facility. Because she was released on Sunday, she could not access her property until no earlier than Tuesday.

Following her release, she had no blanket, tent or other items to protect her from the elements. A few days after her release, she developed pneumonia and was then hospitalized for treatment.

Image of Jack Richter is a screenshot from a video and appears here under a claim of fair use.

  1. See this particularly weird video for an introduction to Sgt. Richter’s philosophy of policing on Skid Row.

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