Woman dragged by San Jose police officer sues
San Jose Police Department headquarters. File photo.

A San Jose woman is suing the city for injuries she suffered when a San Jose police officer kicked her in the stomach, handcuffed her and dragged her across a parking lot.

Guadalupe Marin filed suit Wednesday morning in the Northern District federal court. She is seeking damages for excessive force, violations of due process and the deliberate fabrication of evidence.

Marin also named as defendants Matthew Rodriguez, the officer who physically assaulted her, and officer Tyler Moran who was present during the incident.

The assault, which was caught on camera by a resident picking up a DoorDash order, occurred on June 22, 2020 when officers approached Marin and her family in a McDonald’s parking lot. SJPD claimed the car Marin was driving had evaded police twice the past week, so the officers had their guns drawn as soon as they arrived.

According to the complaint, Marin had never evaded the police in any vehicle.

When Marin became confused by Rodriguez’s order to crawl to him, he shouted “I’m going to kick you in the f—- face,” according to the complaint.

Rodriguez then kicked her in the abdomen and pushed Marin face down to the pavement to handcuff her, according to the suit.

A screenshot of Guadalupe Marin being kicked and dragged in a McDonald’s parking lot by San Jose police in June 2020.

The officer dragged Marin across the pavement in view of her screaming 7-year-old nephew and 2-year-old niece, who were being held at gunpoint by officer Moran. Police charged Marin with resisting arrest and driving with a suspended license, but the district attorney’s office declined to file charges.

Marin’s face, knees and ankles were raw and bloody from being dragged on the pavement, the suit claims. Rodriguez allegedly hyperextended Marin’s shoulders and she could not lift her arms for several days after the incident. A CT scan showed that Marin suffered internal soft tissue damage and a bruise in the shape of a boot, the complaint says.

“What’s seen in that clip—the swift hard kick to someone who’s sitting there not doing anything—it speaks for itself,” Sarah Marinho, an attorney with Stadlin Marinho LP who represents the plaintiff, told San José Spotlight.

SJPD spokesperson Sgt. Christian Camarillo told San José Spotlight the department does not comment on active or pending litigation. City Attorney Nora Frimann said she has not seen the lawsuit but her office won’t comment on litigation either.

According to the complaint, an SJPD sergeant ordered Moran and Rodriguez to contact McDonald’s employees for video footage of the incident and canvass the area for witnesses. Neither of the officers did this, the lawsuit alleges. When the sergeant later reviewed body camera footage from the arrest and the cellphone video, he told internal affairs he didn’t think it was excessive but did wonder if it was “really necessary,” the complaint says.

The complaint claims that the San Jose Police Department was aware of the officers’ failure to document excessive use-of-force and making false reports about people resisting arrest.

Four days before the assault on Marin, Rodriguez and Moran chased a man named Anthony Cho who was a suspect in a stolen car investigation. Moran allegedly kicked Cho in the head after he had surrendered and was lying face-down on the ground. Rodriguez struck Cho with his baton several times, inflicting head trauma, according to the suit.

Both men submitted reports accusing Cho of resisting arrest and reaching for weapons in his waistband. But video footage of the arrest fails to corroborate this claim, according to the suit. Cho filed a civil rights lawsuit against San Jose that is pending in federal court.

Moran used excessive force in another traffic stop from 2016, the lawsuit claims. It said Moran and another officer, Mark Minten, handcuffed a man, threw him on the ground and beat him several times with their firsts and a baton. Moran and his colleague filed a report that the driver resisted arrest, which was proven false by footage of the incident, according to the complaint.

“It’s disappointing for her to learn that (SJPD) was fully aware he was out there doing things that at least caused allegations of excessive force,” Marinho said.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office charged Rodriguez, the officer, with unlawful assault and battery under the color of authority after the cellphone video was posted online. Julia Fox, an attorney who represents Rodriguez in his criminal case, did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit alleges that Rodriguez’s behavior is linked to systemic issues in the San Jose Police Department. It notes that two-thirds of use-of-force incidents in 2019 led to injuries, which is above average, according to the complaint. The Independent Police Auditor recently reported that one-quarter of SJPD officers received a complaint against them in 2020, and 23% of complaints contained allegations about use-of-force.

It also notes that San Jose has been forced to pay more than $26 million since 2010 to settle civil rights lawsuits following violent arrests.

The IPA in 2018 recommended San Jose create a more robust early warning system to flag problem officers. The department agreed with the recommendation but it has not been implemented, according to an archive of the IPA’s recommendations. The complaint also alleges that SJPD fails to analyze whether its training is helping to reduce use-of-force incidents.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter. 

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