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Lawsuits & Litigation

San Jose Police Sued for Brutally Beating California Couple Celebrating Birthday

— August 16, 2020

Officers were called to end a noisy birthday party–and wound up beating a couple so badly they were sent to the hospital.

A California couple is suing the city of San Jose, claiming police ruined a birthday celebration when officers violently stormed their hotel room.

According to ABC News, the lawsuit was filed by Marissa Cruz and Paea Tukuafu.

They complaint alleges that, in 2019, the couple were celebrating Santa Cruz’s 22nd birthday at a Holiday Inn on North First Street. While celebrating, somebody filed a noise complaint against the two. Police were summoned to the hotel, initially accompanied by hotel staff.

Video footage shows officers interacting with Santa Cruz and Tukuafu, even telling them that their music was not disruptively loud.

One officer, says the Mercury News, relayed that hotel management was willing to let Santa Cruz and Tukuafu stay as long as they kept their music’s volume low.

However, a brief verbal confrontation arose when Officer Saul Zepeda asked for Tukuafu’s identification. Both Santa Cruz and Tukuafu argued over the necessity of handing over their I.D. for a noise complaint, while police insisted that department protocol demands they identify everyone they come into contact with.

Police brutality image via Pixabay. Public domain.

Tukuafu eventually relented, but not before another three officers arrived.

Tensions escalated with the arrival of the other officers. Police eventually ordered Santa Cruz and Tukuafu to leave—not because the hotel had requested their departure, but because Tukuafu disrespected Officer Eugene Thompson and his colleagues by “[slamming] the door in our face.”

In the meantime, Sgt. Michel Pina continued to urge the couple to pack up and check out—at the same time, he told another officer to retrieve riot control equipment from a patrol car.

At some point, officers forced their way into the hotel room.

But even as Tukuafu relented and promised to leave, Pina continued to argue with him.

“Push up and tase this guy,” Pina instructed another cop—purportedly because Tukuafu had sworn at him.

Santa Cruz tried to stand between police and her boyfriend.

“I didn’t want him to be tased,” Santa Cruz told KGO News. “Cursing is not breaking any law.”

Santa Cruz was hit below the navel with a taser; at the same time, an officer began beating the back of her legs with a baton.

Officers continued to beat Santa Cruz and Tukuafu, forcing them into the hallway. San Jose police also used a “riot gun” on the couple.

Tukuafu, says the Mercury News, was hit three times with a taser.

Pictures—reprinted by ABC News—show Santa Cruz’s legs covered in large, black bruises, stretching from her upper thigh to below the knee.

Although Santa Cruz and Tukuafu were taken to the hospital and then to jail, the City of San Jose never pressed charges against either of them.

The lawsuit claims that San Jose police violated Santa Cruz and Tukuafu’s Fourth Amendment rights when police entered the hotel room without authorization or due cause. The complaint also claims that police exercised unreasonably force in enforcing a noise complaint, absent any threat from either of the two plaintiffs.

“It was brutal,” Tukuafu told ABC News. “Definitely brutal, unfair. I don’t think we did anything to deserve the way how we were treated.”


Couple suing city of San Jose, police over use of force in hotel altercation

Video shows San Jose police tasing, beating couple after hotel birthday party

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