The Mountain View City Council rejected a $100,000 claim from a man arrested by police on a misdemeanor charge who alleged that officers acted unlawfully when they grabbed him and pulled him out of a car window.
The council's action at the Feb. 25 meeting opens a six-month window for the man to file a lawsuit.
The claim, filed on behalf of Mario Melendez, describes how police officer Benjamin Kroutil stopped Melendez while he was parked in downtown Mountain View last July and, with the help of a second officer, dragged Melendez from the vehicle through the window. The claim states Melendez hit the ground, injuring his head, chest and left eye.
Kroutil was patrolling the downtown area shortly after 2 a.m. on July 27 when he spotted Melendez's vehicle and ran a check on its license plate. Kroutil couldn't find any records on file for the vehicle, and approached Melendez to ask about the ownership and status of the 1980 Honda Civic.
Melendez, according to the claim, told Kroutil to check the license plate again for all the information he needed. Kroutil, "annoyed" by the response, reportedly placed spikes on the vehicle's tires to prevent Melendez from driving away. He then allegedly grabbed Melendez' cellphone out of his hand before pulling him out the car window.
Melendez was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries before he was transferring to Santa Clara County jail. He is facing one misdemeanor charge of resisting or delaying a public officer, to which he pleaded not guilty.
The attorney representing Melendez, Ronald Z. Berki, did not respond to a request for comment.
In the police report for the incident, Kroutil wrote that Melendez had been confrontational from the start, insisting that that it wasn't his problem that Kroutil couldn't find the vehicle in the database. Melendez had repeatedly asserted he didn't have to tell or show police anything because he was neither driving nor doing anything wrong. Melendez pulled out his phone as if he was recording the incident, according to the report.
In making the case for the arrest and use of force, Kroutil wrote in the report that the Honda could have been stolen or involved in criminal activity and had not been checked for weapons, posing an "immediate danger" to officers at the scene. He also suggested that Castro Street's open and active bars meant there were "drunken patrons" in the area who could pose a danger to officers assisting in the investigation if they got behind the wheel.
The claim states that Kroutil refused a request by Melendez to summon his supervising officer. Kroutil's report argued that waiting for his supervisor would have been dangerous.
"I felt that waiting for a supervisor to respond and negotiate with Melendez would only give him more time to develop a plan to escape or attack officers and posed a significant risk to our safety," according to the police report.
Counter to the the claim, Kroutil said he and assisting officers "took control" of Melendez's arms, removed him from the vehicle in a "controlled manner" and set him down on the ground. Officers located a DMV registration card in the vehicle showing Melendez was the registered owner, and that he had registered the vehicle "earlier that day," likely referring to Friday, July 26. The DMV had issued new plates for the vehicle, and Kroutil said it was "unknown" why it hadn't been updated in the computer database.