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Vacaville settles lawsuit brought by family of teenager allegedly beaten during arrest – The Vacaville Reporter

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The city of Vacaville and the family of a special needs teenager who is said to have been forcibly coerced into compliance during an arrest last April have reached a settlement, officials announced late Thursday.

The agreement, officials said, includes a $170,000 payment to the teenager. He and his family will also share their experiences with OIR Group, LLC, the entity that conducts a police department audit.

The city is also donating $30,000 to The Puzzle Project, a program founded by youth director Jeremy Johnson. The program provides a database to help officers and other first responders answer calls where the person called has special needs.

On April 22, 2021, video surfaced of a teenager being beaten by an officer during an arrest at the 300 block of Somerville Way.

The young man, 17, reportedly had a violent altercation with a 16-year-old boy before heading home. As the 17-year-old, who his father Adam Wolf described in a social media post as having autism and ADHD, was standing on the sidewalk, he was approached by the officer.

A neighbor’s ring video showed the youth being thrown to the ground and beaten while being taken into custody.

In his post, Wolf said the officer yelled at the boy, threw his scooter and hit him in the face.

“My son became anxious like any child with autism,” Wolf explained.

Police said the officer was told the young man may have stabbed another person or attacked him with a whistle. During the arrest, the youth did not fully comply, the officers continued, and resisted when the officer tried to handcuff him.

The officer then brought him to the ground.

The 17-year-old was arrested and held for about an hour. He was eventually produced on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest, and then released into the custody of his stepmother.

The victim suffered minor injuries and refused medical treatment, officials said, and his family chose not to press charges.

Officials claim the arresting officer was unaware the teenager had special needs. He was placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

This officer, described only as a department veteran, was later exonerated.

“A thorough investigation, conducted by an independent investigator, found no ongoing policy violations by any of the employees involved,” prosecutors said in a statement. “No disciplinary action was taken based on the findings of the investigation.”

The investigation appears to have found areas for improvement that are now being addressed by the police department, “such as expanded de-escalation training and more resources for the mystery project.”

Last July, the Wolf family – represented by Vincent R. Maher of The Maher Law Group, APC and Jeffrey L. Mendelman of Case Law Ltd. – filed a lawsuit against the city.

“Perhaps more importantly, while the parties deny subsequent events, they agree on the vision for the future of policing in Vacaville, including expanded de-escalation training for staff and a comprehensive police department review, as well as other departmental training specific to how best to deal with people with special needs,” read a press release published on Thursday regarding the settlement.

“On behalf of the City of Vacaville, I apologize to Mr Wolf, his family and friends, and the community of Vacaville,” Police Commissioner Ian Schmutzler said in the statement. “The Police Department has learned valuable lessons from this incident, identified and implemented areas for improvement, and expanded the jigsaw project, all in an effort to arm officers with the critical information needed to work respectfully and effectively with all of our residents.

“I am committed to providing superior service to Vacaville residents, businesses and visitors by building and inspiring trust.”

Additional funding for the puzzle project can only help publicize its existence, he said over the phone Thursday night, and provide police with an additional resource with which to help the community.

Officer Jeremy Johnson, who brought the puzzle project to the police department, agreed.

“Additional funding for the Puzzle project will increase our ability to raise awareness of the program and automate our information gathering processes to ultimately create a safer environment for our residents and first responders,” he noted in the press release.

Information submitted by parents, guardians, and carers is stored in the city’s Computer Aided Dispatch system. It allows first responders to learn about things like a person’s sensitivity to sirens before engaging them, he said, meaning first responders could de-escalate the situation by approaching silently instead.

For more information on the Puzzle Project, please contact Officer Jeremy Johnson at jeremy.johnson@cityofvacaville.com.

https://www.thereporter.com/2022/03/17/city-settles-suit-by-family-of-teen-allegedly-punched-during-arrest/ Vacaville settles lawsuit brought by family of teenager allegedly beaten during arrest – The Vacaville Reporter

Dais Johnston

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