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Federal Agent Assaulted By Chula Vista Police, Awarded $2.2 Million by Jury

In March 2010, a San Diego jury awarded federal agent Sergio Lopez $1.2 in compensatory damages and $1.0 million in punitive damages after finding that he was unlawfully assaulted and battered by Chula Vista police officers.

On the night of October 18, 2006, Lopez was working undercover for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the first day of a two-day surveillance operation in Chula Vista (a suburb of San Diego, California). At the same time, however, Chula Vista police were contending with a Mexican gang posing as law enforcement officers. So when Lopez was pulled over, allegedly for speeding, his attempts to explain that he was an on-duty federal agent fell on deaf ears. Lopez was handcuffed, manhandled, roughed up, yelled at and arrested; his badge was confiscated. About two hours later, when an ICE supervisor arrived at the scene, he was released.

One month later, Lopez filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleged violations of both his federal constitutional rights and state law. Some three years later, a jury found that he had been subjected to unreasonable seizure, excessive force, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. The jury also found that the police had violated Lopez’s rights under California Civil Code § 52.1, the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

The Chula Vista Police Department announced that it may appeal the jury’s verdict.
Sources: Richard Marosi, The Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2010; Lopez v. Chula Vista Police Department (U.S.D.C., S.D. Cal.), Case No. 07-CV-01272WQH- BLM, Second Amended Complaint and Verdict.

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Related legal case

Lopez v. Chula Vista Police Department