Martinez man files claim after police Taser incident

(KGO)
November 7, 2012 6:31:47 PM PST
A Martinez man has taken the first step in filing a civil lawsuit against the city claiming police officers wrongfully used a Taser on him. The incident was caught on video, captured by a surveillance camera at a gas station. There are two sides to the story. Police insist the video does not tell the whole story, but it's clear that the suspect was on his knees and not resisting when officers tased him.

The tasering incident happened at a gas station in October of last year. 36-year-old Eric Gilson says he went there simply to check on his tires and fill up on gas. Last month, Gilson filed his lawsuit against the city of Martinez and its police department for using excessive force. He says police cars came out of nowhere and surrounded his vehicle. He says officers rushed ahim with guns drawn. "The officers began shouting commands at me and there were several officers and they were all shouting commands," he recalled. Gilson says he had no idea what was happening. He would learn later that his wife had filed a domestic violence complaint against him in their bitterly-contested divorce.

The gas station surveillance video shows him getting out of the car. "They told me to raise my hands, which I did, and then they asked me to get on my knees," he said. The video shows him getting on his knees. "My hands were up, so I turned to the left to tell him my hands are up but before I could even complete my sentence, that's when I felt the jolt of electricity," he said. Gilson then falls out of sight of the video. Officers gather around him including the one who shot him with the Taser. "My body was completely immobilized. It was the most painful experience of my life," he said.

Police booked Gilson on a charge of resisting arrest. His attorney, Michael Cardoza, says in the lawsuit that police used excessive force and that even prosecutors apparently agreed with him. "I assume that they saw the video of this incident and they refused to file it. They said no," he told ABC7 News. Gilson posted the video on YouTube about three weeks ago and says it has received about half a million hits.

Police insist the video does not tell the whole story. Martinez Police Chief Gary Peterson said, "The video doesn't speak for itself. The part that was posted was edited to deceive and misrepresent what actually occurred. Internal affairs determined the officer acted within policy."

"I think picture says a thousand words and the video was not edited at all," Gilson told ABC7 News.

Don Cameron, who teaches classes on the use of force at police academies across the state, watched the video. He says Gilson was not resisting or trying to escape, but he says domestic violence is a serious crime and he had not been frisked yet for a weapon. What got his eye was Gilson looking over his left shoulder while lowering his arms, a possible reason for firing a Taser. "When an officer sees somebody that traces them, meaning that he looks at him to see where they are, and the next thing, the hand starts to move and the arm starts to move, that's a red flag for the officer," he explained.

Cameron does not think this is a clear case of exessive force, but really a judgement call on the part of the officer. The Martinez Police Department gave ABC7 News a longer version of the surveillance video but it did not reveal any new information.

Gilson was charged in August with numerous counts including domestic violence and stalking.


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