The family of a Black teenager who said Stockton, California, police “viciously beat” him during a 2020 arrest filed a federal lawsuit against the city and four officers.
The teen, Devin Carter, was left with bruises on both eyes as well as scratches on his face and back after he was arrested following a Dec. 30, 2020, traffic stop. Two officers, Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua, were fired over the incident.
John Burris, an attorney for the family, released photos of Carter’s bruises as well as police body camera video.
The footage shows an officer yelling at Carter to “take his f—— seat belt off.”
“OK, OK, OK. I’m down,” Carter responds as he’s pulled from his car and forced to the ground. “I’m not resisting,” the 17-year-old repeatedly says.
In the video, Carter can be heard screaming in pain and repeatedly saying “ow” as officers place him in handcuffs.
Images released by Carter's attorney show the extent of his injuries.Courtesy Law Offices of John Burris
Burris said the officers acted like a “pack of wolves and “without any provocation or cause, pulled the young black man from his car and viciously beat him.”
He said he had not seen a police beating this violent since Rodney King, a Black man who was beaten by Los Angeles police in March 1991. The city erupted in riots in 1992 after a jury acquitted four white officers seen in video footage beating King.
“Devin was afraid that the officers were going to beat him to death,” the attorney said in a press release.
The lawsuit, which was filed Friday, says that Carter was driving to his father’s house when officers began following him in an attempt to pull him over for speeding. The teen was initially unaware that police were behind him, the suit states.
The lawsuit accuses officers of using a “pursuit intervention technique” to get Carter to stop, which caused another vehicle to swerve. The car was hit by a police vehicle, according to the suit, which states that Carter was unaware of the accident.
The teen eventually stopped and waited in his car with his hands “visibly raised above the steering wheel,” the lawsuit says. He was then pulled from the car and slammed to the ground, according to the lawsuit.
“Devin Carter immediately curled up in a fetal position as multiple officers gathered around him and viciously beat him with their closed fist and feet,” it says. “Devin Carter was kneed in his face by an officer and was struck in the face a number of times. Additionally, Devin Carter was kicked and kneed in his side and back.”
The lawsuit says that Carter posed no threat to officers while he was restrained on the ground and did not resist.
Stockton police said that the pursuit began when officers saw Carter driving “erratically and speeding in excess of 100 mph.” The department accused the teen of turning off his headlights and leading police on a roughly three-minute pursuit.
He stopped after crashing when he lost control on a turn, police said. He was booked into juvenile detention facility on charges of evading and resisting arrest.
Four officers used force during the arrest, according to Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones. They were initially placed on administrative leave, but the chief said in a statement Tuesday that “several” officers had been disciplined.
Officers Stiles and Villapudua were fired for acting “well outside the scope of both our policy and training,” Jones said.
“Our department has policies that state we should make attempts to avoid striking an arrestee around the head and neck area when possible. Given this set of circumstances, I cannot and will not condone any excessive force,” he said in a statement. “Additionally, any use of profanity is considered unwarranted and not professional.”
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is also reviewing the case.
The Stockton Police Department, the city attorney, and the Stockton Police Officers’ Association did not immediately return a request for comment Saturday.
Mayor Kevin Lincoln said he was “deeply saddened and concerned” about what took place during Carter’s arrest.