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San Jose man files $10M lawsuit against Mountain View after police pull him out of car window

Police report says man was removed 'in a controlled manner,' lawsuit says he suffered head injuries after crashing to the ground

A San Jose man is suing the city of Mountain View alleging police officers illegally arrested him in 2019 and used excessive force when they dragged him out of his car window.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of San Jose resident Mario Edgardo Melendez last week, claims that officer Benjamin Kroutil forcefully grabbed Melendez and pulled him out of his car through an open window, causing him to hit the ground and suffer injuries. He is seeking a grand total of $10 million for compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit alleges that officers had no reason to suspect criminal wrongdoing in the first place, and claims police unnecessarily escalated the situation. Melendez was arrested on charges of resisting a police officer, which were later dismissed.

City officials declined to comment on pending litigation.

The incident occurred in July 2019 around 2:25 a.m., when Melendez was in his parked car on the 200 block of Castro Street. The lawsuit said that Melendez was waiting for the car to warm up when Kroutil parked behind him, waiting several minutes before approaching Melendez's vehicle.

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Kroutil told Melendez that he had run a scan on his license plate and did not receive any results, and asked Melendez for identification, according to both the lawsuit and the police report of the incident. Melendez refused to provide identification and said that he had done nothing wrong.

During the confrontation, another officer parked directly in front of Melendez's car to block him from leaving, and a spike trap was placed under his vehicle. Melendez repeatedly asked for Kroutil's supervisor, according to the suit, and Kroutil said he would arrest Melendez and take him to jail if he continued to delay the investigation.

In the police report, Kroutil wrote that he was worried 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 that it posed a significant risk to his safety. He also wrote that the vehicle had not been checked for weapons and may have been stolen.

What happened next is where the police report and the lawsuit diverge. According to the police report, Kroutil said he and assisting officers had taken control of Melendez through his window and removed him in a "controlled manner," setting him on the ground. According to the lawsuit, Kroutil and a second officer grabbed Melendez's hand, forcing him to drop his cell phone and causing the screen to crack, before violently pulling him out of the car.

Melendez fell into the road, slamming his face and body on the ground, according to the suit. He suffered injuries to his head, left eye, shoulder and chest. The suit claims that Melendez also lost consciousness at some point after hitting the ground and suffered a concussion.

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The police report states that officers later located a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration card inside the vehicle showing Melendez was the registered owner, and that his car had been registered the day prior. Kroutil said in the report that it was "unknown" why it had not been updated in the DMV's database.

The civil complaint names three other officers -- Anthony Reinosa, Joshua Lai and Jeffrey Reed -- as defendants in the case. It alleges that Reed allowed "unlawful conduct" on the part of his subordinates, and that Lai failed to intervene in an "unreasonable seizure and arrest."

"The actions by said defendants were committed maliciously and oppressively, and constituted despicable conduct sufficient for an award of punitive (and) exemplary damages against all defendants," the lawsuit states.

Mountain View faced these allegations early last year in a claim against the city, which was unanimously rejected by the City Council in February.

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San Jose man files $10M lawsuit against Mountain View after police pull him out of car window

Police report says man was removed 'in a controlled manner,' lawsuit says he suffered head injuries after crashing to the ground

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 10:40 am

A San Jose man is suing the city of Mountain View alleging police officers illegally arrested him in 2019 and used excessive force when they dragged him out of his car window.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of San Jose resident Mario Edgardo Melendez last week, claims that officer Benjamin Kroutil forcefully grabbed Melendez and pulled him out of his car through an open window, causing him to hit the ground and suffer injuries. He is seeking a grand total of $10 million for compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit alleges that officers had no reason to suspect criminal wrongdoing in the first place, and claims police unnecessarily escalated the situation. Melendez was arrested on charges of resisting a police officer, which were later dismissed.

City officials declined to comment on pending litigation.

The incident occurred in July 2019 around 2:25 a.m., when Melendez was in his parked car on the 200 block of Castro Street. The lawsuit said that Melendez was waiting for the car to warm up when Kroutil parked behind him, waiting several minutes before approaching Melendez's vehicle.

Kroutil told Melendez that he had run a scan on his license plate and did not receive any results, and asked Melendez for identification, according to both the lawsuit and the police report of the incident. Melendez refused to provide identification and said that he had done nothing wrong.

During the confrontation, another officer parked directly in front of Melendez's car to block him from leaving, and a spike trap was placed under his vehicle. Melendez repeatedly asked for Kroutil's supervisor, according to the suit, and Kroutil said he would arrest Melendez and take him to jail if he continued to delay the investigation.

In the police report, Kroutil wrote that he was worried 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 that it posed a significant risk to his safety. He also wrote that the vehicle had not been checked for weapons and may have been stolen.

What happened next is where the police report and the lawsuit diverge. According to the police report, Kroutil said he and assisting officers had taken control of Melendez through his window and removed him in a "controlled manner," setting him on the ground. According to the lawsuit, Kroutil and a second officer grabbed Melendez's hand, forcing him to drop his cell phone and causing the screen to crack, before violently pulling him out of the car.

Melendez fell into the road, slamming his face and body on the ground, according to the suit. He suffered injuries to his head, left eye, shoulder and chest. The suit claims that Melendez also lost consciousness at some point after hitting the ground and suffered a concussion.

The police report states that officers later located a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration card inside the vehicle showing Melendez was the registered owner, and that his car had been registered the day prior. Kroutil said in the report that it was "unknown" why it had not been updated in the DMV's database.

The civil complaint names three other officers -- Anthony Reinosa, Joshua Lai and Jeffrey Reed -- as defendants in the case. It alleges that Reed allowed "unlawful conduct" on the part of his subordinates, and that Lai failed to intervene in an "unreasonable seizure and arrest."

"The actions by said defendants were committed maliciously and oppressively, and constituted despicable conduct sufficient for an award of punitive (and) exemplary damages against all defendants," the lawsuit states.

Mountain View faced these allegations early last year in a claim against the city, which was unanimously rejected by the City Council in February.

Comments

Lenny Siegel2
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2021 at 12:12 pm
Lenny Siegel2, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 12:12 pm

I would like to know what Mountain View's policy is on "pretext" stops. That is, does our Police Department normally stop or approach vehicles on the pretext of a possible registration violations. I would also like to know how many of the thousands of annual vehicle stops are based on such minor, non-urgent questions. Finally, I would like to know if such encounters are the primary reason why Mountain View police disproportionally encounter black and brown people in their daily routines.


Peter
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:02 pm
Peter, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Yonatan
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Yonatan, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 2:05 pm

All 3 of these officers should be fired immediately. What the police did is evil.


Ron MV
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Apr 22, 2021 at 3:04 pm
Ron MV, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 3:04 pm

@Yonatan "evil" seems a little hyperbolic. The officers found the plates unregistered and he then refused to identify himself. That starts to add up to something seeming suspicious. They already had him detained with the cars and tire strip, so I would have preferred that they call for that supervisor rather than try to pull him out of the car, but their actions were overly aggressive, not "evil" in any way.


JS
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Apr 22, 2021 at 3:11 pm
JS, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 3:11 pm

@Lenny Siegel2 - A registration violation is not "minor." No registration means no insurance. That means when this person hits you and severely injures you, you get NOTHING. It's happened to 2 of my friends. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Me
Registered user
North Whisman
on Apr 22, 2021 at 4:09 pm
Me, North Whisman
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 4:09 pm

>A registration violation is not "minor." No registration means no insurance.

You know what else isn't minor: insurance fraud, insider trading, and a host of other "white collar crimes" which are far, far worse than not registering your vehicle.

And yet strangely no one would say "yeah the cops should physically pull white collar criminals out of their vehicle and onto the pavement."

It's almost like that's only ok when it's a minority poor person ...


Tina
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2021 at 7:10 pm
Tina, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 7:10 pm

You do not have to be a person of color to be abused by the MTN view police. My husband had a minor accident avoiding hitting another vehicle and instead he hit a no parking sign.
The total damages to the sign was less than 300. We got a bill for it a year later. The police tried to get him on a DUI, reckless driving, unlawful racing and various other trumped up charges.He has not had a ticket in 40 yrs., he drives a Lincoln by the way. The cops can put anything they want on a ticket, they can lie too, as our attorney pointed out. A year later and 8000 dollars for tow charges and attorneys fees. He was convicted of disturbing the peace which is a misdemeanor and 20 full days of community service, which he actually enjoyed. He has learned to be a good landscape maintenance guy. I will never trust the cops ever again.


Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:03 pm
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 8:03 pm

So cops roughed up a local because his car wasn't registered in the DMV database? He's right to sue the city. That $10M will come out of our children's schools. Thanks, MVPD. Let's hold the police accountable for their actions instead of giving them a blank check to violate civil rights.


Susan
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Apr 22, 2021 at 9:07 pm
Susan, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 9:07 pm

@Tina, I am sorry for what happened to your husband & I have a similar story. The bottom line is that I believe officer training is inconstant because most MV officers are quite competent, while others are dangerously undertrained. For example, arrest reports have a blank space to indicate whether an alleged crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. The officer, who likely has no legal training, is allowed to determine whether the alleged crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. This choice determines how & when the suspect will be arrested, detained, charged, bailed & released. At the time I was arrested fifteen years ago, after a verbal argument with my Asian postal carrier on my own condominium property during which he threatened me with physical harm, the responding officer charged ME with a felony. To this day, I do not know why this Latina officer, who carried a gun and a taser, decided that a middle-aged white woman with a cane was such a threat to society the she needed to charged with a felony. I am identifying our ethnic origins because the only reason that my lawyer could think of that I was arrested instead of the postal carrier was that the very junior officer viewed me as a rich, privileged white woman who dared to argue with a U.S. postal carrier. The carrier kept misdelivering my mail and that of my neighbors. The carrier's supervisor had just left my property after speaking with me to take my statement on the misdelivered, missing and mangled mail we received over the past 6 months. My lawyer theorized that the carrier saw his supervisor leave and knew he was in trouble. Had I not called the police myself to report the carrier's threat to harm me, I never would have been arrested. My attorney got the charge reduced to a misdemeanor to which I plead nolo contendre (I don't agree with the charge, but I'm not going to argue anymore). The entire mess cost me about $10K including the attorney's fees to have my record expunged two years later.


Santa Rita Mom
Registered user
The Crossings
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:11 pm
Santa Rita Mom, The Crossings
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:11 pm

May be those of you who think the police are terrible should refrain from calling them when criminals victimize you. It would certainly free up their time to help those of us who appreciate what they do every day.

The current climate has bred such disrespect for the law that EVERYONE is endangered. Whatever happened to people following directions from the police when they are stopped? That was what I was taught to do and, oddly enough, I have NEVER had a problem when interacting with law enforcement. Then again, I also refrain from doing criminal activities.

The police have a dangerous job. One that very few people have the courage and dedication to do. They are also human and they do occasionally make mistakes. That doesn't make them evil or criminal - just fallible. It is outrageous to expect anyone to do this job if they are demonized at every turn.

How about we get back to holding those who are committing crimes responsible for what they do? If they are going to break the law, then the least they could do is cooperate with law enforcement when they get caught. As for those who spend their time demonizing the police every time a criminal is killed or injured when they resist arrest, maybe you should consider how much worse things would be if they WEREN'T there. Maybe you're good with risking your life by reducing our police presence, but it is not your right to risk MY life with such foolishness.


Jt
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:42 pm
Jt, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 22, 2021 at 11:42 pm

Opinions are like a*******s everyone has one and some stink more than others. Now if the man that was removed from his vehicle had ran a stop sign or red light and refused to pull over until reaching his destination that would be one thing. But it said that he was in his car warming it up to start his day. When did sitting in a vehicle that is on become a crime? The officer said that he didn’t know why the DMV didn’t update on their end..... did I miss a crime that was committed? Where is the part of the police report where the citizen committed a crime or was suspected of committing a crime... TOO MUCH POWER AND TOO MUCH FREEDOM..... when everyone goes to work are there not rules that are in place? When every officer starts their day are they saying to themselves “I am the law” or is it “ I will uphold the law” protect and serve was the common motto but in recent years “protect and serve” has become a thing of the past. This man had proof the vehicle was his even if the DMV info was not updated maybe de- escalation is a thing of the past too..... THE POLICE HAVE TOO MUCH POWER AND TOO MUCH FREEDOM I am still in awe of the unjustified shootings where the person didn’t even have a weapon like police are so incompetent that they can’t tell the difference in weight between their taser and their standard issue I know there are thing that distinguish tasers from guns and the police work with the both of them on the daily so how can the words “ I thought it was my taser” come out of an officers mouth as a shot gets fired


Mark
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Apr 23, 2021 at 6:11 am
Mark, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 6:11 am

Police Dept's need to stop hiring stupid.


Tina
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2021 at 8:39 am
Tina, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 23, 2021 at 8:39 am

We don't believe the police should be underfunded, in fact there should be more money available for better training and vetting of officers. Also, as we found out because of our unfortunate insident, there is the law and there is police policy, which the public does not need to know. It's as if there are two separate laws. I have a suggestion that would free up a lot of money for a new police force. Instead of there being a police force for each city, let's have one for each county. We would have fewer police chiefs, captains, loutenants, sargents etc.that receive pays in the 200k+. Of course, this is a dream and it will never happen because the powers that be will not give up their fifedom.


FrankSki
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:58 pm
FrankSki, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 8:58 pm

@Susan. I always thought the California Penal Code (via our Legislators) determined whether an alleged crime or actual crime was a misdemeanor or felony? Has something changed?

Fact: Police don't make laws.

Jus' sayin'.


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