Bay City News Service
A Vallejo man who was seriously injured during a police arrest at his apartment five years ago has received a $4.15 million settlement from the city, his lawyers announced today.
Vallejo's settlement with Macario Dagdagan ends a federal civil rights lawsuit in which Dagdagan claimed two officers illegally entered his apartment without a warrant and used excessive force in arresting him while investigating a complaint of an assault on his girlfriend.
Dagdagan suffered dislodged vertebrae, a ruptured disk and a broken neck -- injuries that resulted in permanent spinal damage, according to one of his attorneys, Todd Boley.
The injuries apparently occurred after the two officers shot Dagdagan twice with a stun gun and handcuffed him, and were trying to restrain him from getting up from a chair, Boley said.
Dagdagan was initially paralyzed by the broken neck, but after emergency surgery he eventually recovered the ability to walk, although with a limp, the attorney said. Boley said Dagdagan, a Vietnam veteran, remains in constant pain and has been unable to resume work as a machinist.
Peter Alfert, another attorney for Dagdagan, said, "The police had no justification for going into the apartment, for arresting Macario, and certainly no reason to break his neck. "Through this settlement, he wants to send a clear message that all of us must not tolerate police misconduct and we will hold police accountable," Alfert said.
Dagdagan received the $4.15 million settlement check last week and the case was dismissed in federal court in Sacramento on Tuesday, Boley said. The settlement will be paid by the city's insurance.
The city did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.
Lawyers for Vallejo were not immediately available for comment today.
In court filings, lawyers for the city agreed that Dagdagan was shot with a Taser stun gun and handcuffed, and was taken away in an ambulance, but argued that the officers used only the force necessary to subdue him and were justified in entering his home.
They said the officers entered the apartment without a warrant because there were signs of a possible burglary in progress, including a door left open, a stove left on, rice scattered on the floor and no response when they yelled into the apartment.
The officers found Dagdagan lying in his bed, showing "signs of alcohol intoxication," the attorneys said in court papers.
In a key ruling in the case, a federal appeals court in San Francisco last year turned down the city's bid to dismiss the lawsuit.
The appeals court, upholding a similar ruling by U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell of Sacramento, said that under the facts alleged in the lawsuit, the officers should have obtained a warrant because there was no emergency situation.
The appeals court said that, according to the lawsuit, the officers had already interviewed the alleged victim at her home before coming to Dagdagan's apartment, and knew that she was safe at her home.
The court said, "No emergency or exigency justified the officers' flagrant invasions of clearly established constitutional rights."
Boley said Dagdagan was charged with assault on his girlfriend, but the charge was later dropped by Solano County prosecutors.
The attorney said the two officers, John Boyd and Jason Wentz, now work for the Richmond Police Department.