A 32-year-old San Diego man is seeking damages from the city after he called police for help and claimed he was assaulted and then arrested by responding officers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Stephen Keith, a U.S. Navy veteran who was on crutches at the time, is seeking more than “$25,000 in damages for injuries, pain and suffering, legal costs and lost wages, and unspecified punitive damages.”
After being attacked by a stranger, Keith called the police for assistance. Instead of seeking to apprehend his attacker, the officers tackled Keith, knocking out some of his teeth, and arrested him.
“When the San Diego Police Department officers arrived on the scene, they immediately tackled Mr. Keith to the ground and began brutalizing Mr. Keith,” the claim read. “Prior to taking Mr. Keith to the ground, the officers did not direct any order towards Mr. Keith and Mr. Keith did not do anything to cause a reasonable police officer to believe that any force used on Mr. Keith would be justified.”
Although Keith did not resist arrest during the ordeal, the officers continued to use accessive force against him, according to the claim. One officer even struck Keith in the back with his knee seven times, the claim said.
While in custody, Keith was taken to a hospital for treatment of his injuries, which included knocked-out teeth and an injured back, the claim said. After his release from the hospital, he was taken to jail and later posted bail.
Keith's lawsuit follows the police department's new de-escalation policy that was implemented in June of 2020. The policy requires officers to use de-escalation techniques if safe and reasonable, and to intervene if they witness another officer using unreasonable force. Also, the intervening officer is obligated to report the unreasonable use of force to their superiors.
According to a use-of-force database maintained by the Police Department, San Diego police officers used force more than 38,000 times in more than 16,000 incidents from September 2016 through April 2021. Although Black people make up only 6 percent of the city’s population, they are the victims of force more than anyone else.