Attorney for mentally ill homeless man plans to sue LAPD over Venice clash
By Gary Walker
The attorney for a mentally ill homeless man who was hospitalized after a violent encounter with police along the Venice boardwalk says he is planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD and the city.
The Aug. 7 arrest of 52-year-old Samuel Arrington, which has already prompted an internal police investigation, was captured on cell phone video by a bystander.
The widely publicized footage, also posted at argonautnews.com, shows Arrington seated on a folding chair during a verbal standoff with police before he is surrounded by officers, pulled to the ground, struck multiple times and jolted with a Taser multiple times.
Arrington had refused to sign a police citation for violating city ordinances that included having an unsecured umbrella, vending outside a designated area and use of city property for vending, according to police reports. The video shows officers warning Arrington that he would be arrested if he did not sign it.
Arrington’s attorney, Nazareth Haysbert, said Arrington suffered broken ribs, bruises and cuts — including a head wound that required 18 stitches to close — during his arrest, which involved eight police officers.
An LAPD arrest report states that Arrington exhibited “aggressive behavior” after he refused to sign the citation and police used a Taser five times in order to control him. In the report LAPD officer Jayson Siller also states that officer Daniel Ramirez struck Arrington in the head twice with a closed fist after Arrington grabbed another officer’s shirt during the struggle on the boardwalk near Sunset Avenue.
Ramirez states in the report that Arrington had reached for another officer’s gun, a claim Haysbert denies.
Bystander footage “shows pretty clearly that [Arrington] was being held down on all sides by police officers,” Haysbert said.
The arrest report states that Ramirez informed Siller during the encounter that Ramirez had taken Arrington into custody weeks earlier for resisting arrest. Both officers are members of the LAPD Pacific Division’s Beach Patrol.
Arrington, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, has been arrested five times on Venice Beach and was accused of resisting arrest in each instance, Haysbert said.
Haysbert has called on the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the FBI to investigate what he calls a “pattern and practice of criminal police misconduct toward Mr. Arrington and others like him who are afflicted with mental illness.”
Haysbert argues that officers should have known that Arrington, who is no longer homeless, was mentally ill because Ramirez had a history with Arrington and police had previously transported Arrington for medical treatment.
“This is a classic example of police officers mistaking a mental disability for non-compliance,” Haysbert said.
Having prior knowledge of Arrington’s erratic behavior, police should have called for a special mental health unit to respond, Haysbert said.
The LAPD’s Mental Evaluation Unit / Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team — known by the acronym SMART — assists police during encounters with those believed to be mentally ill and also provides placement in or referrals to mental health facilities.
The LAPD arrest report does not mention any contact with the mental health unit.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, was recently appointed vice chair of a new council ad hoc committee on homelessness. One of the committee’s recommendations is for “funding to link pilot programs like the ‘The Mental Evaluation Unit’” to other city departments.
Bonin called the mental health unit “robust” but said the city needs more teams.
“I’d really like to see one based out of Pacific Division,” Bonin said.