Bellingham City Officials Pay $100,000 Civil Rights Lawsuit

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Bellingham City Civil Right LawsuitBellingham city officials settled a civil rights lawsuit for $100,000 that claimed two police officer used excessive force during an arrest.

The lawsuit arises from a February 2015 arrest of a Pierce County man who was accused of hitting his daughter during an argument at their home. When police officers Jeffrey Yoda and Jacob Esparza went to investigate the scene, they took hold of Curtis A. Parrot’s wrists, forcibly turned him around and put him against his vehicle to be handcuffed. Yoda said they did this because Parrot told them he wasn’t going to jail and implied that he would resist arrest.

Parrot said he suffered a permanent injury to his shoulder from the handcuffing. However, Yoder said he observed Parrot move his arm without any problems while he was in the hospital.

Shane Brady, assistant city attorney, said the city settled the lawsuit for risk management purposes. If the city took the lawsuit to trial, they could have faced a large jury award and had to pay court and lawyer fees.

“The city stands by what the officers did and how they handled that call,” Brady said Thursday.

Police Chief David Doll also supports what the officer did during the arrest.

“This case was reviewed at the time and we felt that (the officers) used appropriate force,” Doll said. “I’m disappointed, and I understand that it’s a risk management decision. If we had body-worn cameras at that time, my officers would have been exonerated.”

Brady and Doll said that another reason why the city decided to settle was Esparza’s dismissal from the police force in December 2016 after his arrest for domestic violence. In November of that year, his ex-wife came to his house to pick up their kids. The two got into an argument and Esparza pushed her against the van, choked her and threatened to kill her, according to court records.

Esparza pleaded guilty to one count of harassment with domestic violence. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with 362 suspended. The former officer has to undergo alcohol abuse treatment and domestic violence evaluation. He also is not allowed to have a gun or have any contact with his ex-wife for five years.

This isn’t the first time police officers have used excessive force when arresting a person. In June 2011, Portland police officers pulled Jason Cox over suspicion of drunk driving. Police said Cox failed to follow commands and they had to take him down to the ground. According to Cox’s lawyer, police punched him seven times and hit him with a stun gun four times.

Cox sued the city of Portland for the incident and won $162,000 for medical bills and lost income and $400,000 in punitive damages.

To read additional interesting legal news stories, including the Tonight Show employees suing NBC, find more on Cohen & Cohen.

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