LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Attorneys for a man who lives in a tent on an empty lot in Boyle Heights sued the city of Los Angeles and members of its police force Monday for allegedly using excessive force and spitting in his face during an altercation that was caught on camera.
Richard Castillo, who said in the suit he has lived most of his life in the 2400 block of Houston Street and was raised two houses away from the vacant lot, alleged he was assaulted April 27 by an officer as another officer looked on and was held overnight in jail for no legal reason.
A spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office said the office would review the lawsuit, but had no further comment.
A spokesperson with the LAPD said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but in a May 4 statement, the LAPD confirmed that one of the two officers involved was placed under investigation for alleged assault.
Castillo said in the suit that the officers believed he was trespassing on the property, but the owner of the vacant lot has been long aware of his presence on the property and has never told him to leave.
The suit also contends that members of an adjacent church that uses the lot for parking have also been aware of his presence and have never asked him to leave the property.
“As a member of the Boyle Heights community, plaintiff and his dog, Mamas, are well-known by the neighborhood, who has accepted (him) as one of their own,” the complaint, filed in Los Angeles federal court, says.
The lawsuit alleges that after police approached, he was struck by an unidentified officer “in the face, head and body,” and was “intentionally and purposefully” spit on while another officer stood by.
“Throughout the incident, plaintiff was terrified for his life, and was experiencing substantial pain and suffering,” according to the complaint, which said that a cellphone recording taken by an observer went “viral” on the internet.
According to the suit, Castillo was handcuffed and taken to Hollenbeck Police Station for booking and processing, and kept overnight in a cell, then released without pending charges.
According to an LAPD statement released last week, a supervisor was called to the scene and a witness who had seen a portion of the fight gave the supervisor a copy of a cellphone video.
“Upon review of the content of the cellphone video and the involved officer’s body worn video, the supervisor notified his commanding officer and investigators of the Internal Affairs Group responded to conduct a personnel complaint investigation,” the statement said.
LAPD said a formal investigation was started and the officer, who was not publicly identified, was assigned to home duty pending the results.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)