Federal Appeals Court Overturns Dismissal of Fatal Anaheim Police Shooting Lawsuit

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Theresa Smith hugged by her late son
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a wrongful death lawsuit of a man gunned down by Anaheim police should be decided by a jury. On December 11, 2009, five officers opened fire, killing 35-year-old Caesar Cruz in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski cited "curious and material factual discrepancies" in finding a lower court's dismissal of the civil suit in error.

"Honestly, I'm excited," says Theresa Smith, Cruz's mother. "For me, winning the reversal shows that the whole system, from the police, to the Orange County District Attorney, to the lower court, did something wrong."

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Protester Sues Anaheim Officers Involved in Previous Lawsuits

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Brown holding the greatest protest sign in Anaheim history!
Richard Brown beat criminal charges last October related to his arrest while protesting the Anaheim Police Department on July 29, 2012. Brown and his girlfriend Kristine Hedley are now suing officers for civil rights violations alleging excessive force and false arrest. In a complaint filed two years to the date after the protest, at least two of the Anaheim cops named as defendants are no strangers to allegations of misconduct.

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Lawsuit: Anaheim Police "Executed" Cuffed Man in Cover Up

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Joel Acevedo (right)

A lawsuit filed this week claims Anaheim police officers covered up what really happened on the night of July 22, 2012, when they shot and killed Joel Acevedo. The Orange County District Attorney's (OCDA) office completed its investigation into the shooting clearing officer Kelly Phillips on the grounds that Acevedo was armed and shot first after fleeing a reportedly stolen Lexus SUV. The lawsuit alleges a completely different story involving nothing less than an outright execution.


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Families of Men Killed by Anaheim Police to Hold March and Rally THIS SATURDAY

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Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
Scene from last year's anniversary march
The second anniversaries of the killings of Manuel Angel Diaz and Joel Acevedo by Anaheim police is next week. The deaths, of course, led to riots that captured international media attention. Families of Acevedo, Diaz, and others killed by Anaheim PD will hold a rally and protest this Saturday to remember their loved ones.

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Gustavo's Latest KCRW "Orange County Line": On Anaheim and Santa Ana's New Latino Police Chiefs!

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Wikimedia Commons
"We ain't in Dixie anymore, Gomer..."

When are affirmative action hires not affirmative action hires? When they're not. Okay, let's try that again...

Earlier this month, Anaheim and SanTana made history after appointing the first-ever Latino police chiefs for their respective departments. And while an outsider might view the moves as easy affirmative action hires to reflect the demographics of the cities, people who actually pay attention know that SanTana head Carlos Rojas and Anaheim top cop Raul Quezada are hardly tokes--indeed, they're the ultimate department insiders. That was the thrust of my "Orange County Line" commentary this past Monday on KCRW-FM 89.9.


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Anaheim City Council to Consider Monument Honoring Bruno the Police Dog

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Not to be confused with BrĂ¼no the Austrian fashionista
A month later, fundraisers and news reports are still pouring in for Bruno, the Anaheim police K-9 severely wounded by gunfire after a deadly shootout between officers and Robert Moreno, Jr. A group calling itself "Dog Park for Chino Hills" held a "Breakfast for Bruno" event at Applebee's on Saturday that tallied up $3,000 in donations.

Not to be outdone, the Anaheim City Council, at the suggestion of Kris Murray, is getting in on the "Brunomania" bit. At this evening's meeting, council members will direct city staff to organize a committee to build a monument to Bruno at one of Anaheim's future dog park sites.

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Judge Blocks Trial For Fatal Police Shooting, Sticks Victim's Family With Cop's Legal Bill

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Beware unarmed, Anaheim police protester: Cops will claim they mistook your Disney sign for a gun, kill you, demand immunity from public scrutiny and then win support from reality suspending, country club OC judges
Anaheim's Bernie Cervantes Villegas held the barrel end of a BB rifle when police officers approached him in January 2012, complied with commands to raise his arms and was nevertheless shot five times and killed though he never pointed the weapon at cops or grabbed for the trigger.

Officers "high-fived" each other after the shooting, according to a defense witness.

That's the version defense lawyers presented in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the trigger-happy shooter, Anaheim officer Nick Bennallack, who six months later also executed an unarmed Manuel Diaz by shooting him in the butt and back of the head.

According to court records, the cop--affectionately called "Buckshot Bennallack" by fellow officers and "Backshot Bennallack" by angry residents--demanded that a jury never see crime scene photographs of the gruesome results of his five shots because jurors might become nauseous by the overkill.

This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney ordered Villegas' surviving family members to pay Anaheim PD's legal bills after refusing to let the lawsuit go to a future jury because, in his view, even if the plaintiff's version of events is accurate, the cop acted "reasonably" in fear for his life.

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Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada Meets Residents in his First Town Hall

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Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
Anaheim police chief Raul Quezada
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada took center stage at a town hall last night hosted by the East Street Community Renewal Initiative (ESCRI). Residents gathered at the Eli Everything & More thrift store to hear him out on gangs, policy and oversight just months into the job. On the home turf of her nonprofits, former councilwoman and current mayoral candidate Lorri Galloway introduced the Anaheim Police Department's first Mexican-in-Chief as "history-making" with such glee it's as if she's trying to become the first woman of color mayor in the city--oh wait, she is!

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Memorial for Unarmed Man Slain by Anaheim Police Vandalized by Rival Gang; Grieving Mother Asks for Unity

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Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly
Manuel Diaz's memorial on Sunday morning
The memorial marking the site where 25-year-old Manuel Diaz was shot and killed by Anaheim police on July 21, 2012 was trashed over the weekend. Gang members from a rival neighborhood vandalized a large banner marking his dates of birth and death. Spray paint covered pictures of Diaz and even framed photographs of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary placed atop a main table.

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Family of Unarmed Man Killed by Anaheim PD Settle Civil Suit for $245,000

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David Raya
The city of Anaheim settled a lawsuit earlier this month filed by the family of David Raya. The 23-year-old man was unarmed when shot to death on August 16, 2011 by detective Bruce Linn near the 100 block of West Guinida Lane.

The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) ruled the shooting justified, but Maria Lopez, Raya's mother, said the killing violated her son's civil rights. The Anaheim city council approved a $245,000 settlement on March 11 that came in exchange for the immediate dismissal of the lawsuit.

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