CARLSBAD — A Valenica woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the Carlsbad Police Department and the city of Carlsbad alleging civil rights violations stemming from a 2013 incident.
Video captured by a cellphone of Cindy Hahn, 43, shows her on the receiving end of several punches and a knee to the abdomen by Carlsbad police officers in July 2013 after leaving a birthday party.
The video surfaced one year after Hahn was charged with two felonies, one count for resisting arrest and one charge of battery on a peace officer. Upon viewing the video, San Diego County prosecutors dismissed the charges on July 19, according to numerous statements to the media by Hahn’s attorney, Mark Geragos of Los Angeles.
The city hired the Carlsbad firm of Meters Fozi LLP as legal counsel to defend the city and the officers alleged of misconduct. As for the five officers named in the lawsuit, their status is unknown.
According to Jodee Sasway, community relations manager for the CPD, two of the officers involved are still with the department.
The lawsuit against the city of Carlsbad and five police officers allege a battery, civil rights violations, negligence and loss of consortium. As for damages Hahn is seeking, the lawsuit states, “an amount to be proven at trial.”
She filed the suit in September 2014 in San Diego County Superior Court, although the case was filed in federal court in San Diego last week.
“A horrific day,” she told an L.A. TV station last week.
The incident was sparked when Hahn left a beach party with her two children — then 11 and 7 years old — near Magee Park and Garfield Street. Hahn asked officer Kenyatte Valentine why a car alarm was going off and, according to the lawsuit, Valentine’s response was “mind your (expletive) business.”
According to the lawsuit, and a screenshot submitted to the court as evidence, Hahn called a non-emergency hotline to report Valentine’s behavior. Hahn reportedly told dispatchers the officer “appeared mentally unstable” and felt harassed and intimidated.
After she left, Hahn was pulled over minutes later for a seat belt violation, but was not ticketed, the lawsuit states.
The video, meanwhile, begins with Hahn, who was unarmed, already pinned to the ground by Valentine. Soon after the recording begins, two other vehicles respond and an officer, Jody Knisley, races out of his car and within seconds strikes Hahn twice with punches, then knees her in the stomach and then lands another blow to her head. Knisley also pins his knee on Hahn’s neck as she cries for help.
A third officer is seen keeping at least one witness from aiding and keeping others away from the scene.
“Help me, help me, help me” Hahn cries out as she is arrested.
She was transported to a hospital where Hahn was diagnosed with a concussion. The suit alleges Hahn also suffered permanent memory loss, brain trauma and bruises on her face, chest an abdomen.
A woman recording the incident cries, “What are y’all doing to her?” while Hahn repeatedly says, “I did nothing.”
As for the police, Chief Neil Gallucci posted a statement on Oct. 5 on the city’s website.
It reads: “Whenever there is an active lawsuit, the Police Department is under heavy restrictions on what information we are legally able to share. I want to assure the public that we are prepared to provide a complete and detailed account of the facts of this incident in a courtroom, including what is not shown on the video released by the plaintiff’s attorney.
“Although we are not discussing this incident specifically, due to the lawsuit, we would like to assure our community that the City of Carlsbad Police Department is committed to maintaining the very highest standards of conduct in carrying out our duties. We immediately investigate any allegation of misconduct, and all of our officers undergo extensive training in ensuring the safety of our community and our officers.”
Hahn is the daughter of a retired San Fernando police officer.
The video, meanwhile, has gathered more than 600,000 views on YouTube.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.