T. J. v. City of Los Angeles
On the evening of October 31, 2013, T. J., a 30-year-old African American male, had gone to the Westfield-Topanga Mall to participate in the Halloween festivities with his girlfriend and their two-year old daughter. When T. J.’s girlfriend realized she had forgotten her purse in their car, she asked him to retrieve it. After T. J. did so and was walking back towards the mall, he was confronted by two LAPD uniformed officers who formed the suspicion that T. J. might have broken into a vehicle and stolen the purse he was carrying. The officers confronted T. J. who believed he was being racially profiled. T. J. explained that the purse belonged to his girlfriends and offered to take them inside the mall where his girlfriend was waiting. Unconvinced, the officers decided to arrest T. J. grabbing him from behind without any warning, placing him in a choke hold, and taking him to the ground.
At the time of the incident, one Officer was 6’3″ tall, and weighed approximately 220 lbs. while the second Officer was 6′ tall and weighed approximately 200 lbs. T. J. was 5’7″ tall and weighed approximately 145 pounds. T. J.’s girlfriend arrived at the scene moments later and verified that the purse belonged to her. Even though witnesses at the scene verified that T. J. did not resist the officers, he was, nonetheless, arrested for violation of California Penal Code § 148 – commonly referred to as resisting arrest. T. J. had never been arrested or charged with any criminal offense prior to this incident. The District Attorney subsequently refused to prosecute the case.
We were retained by T. J. to file a civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD. After nearly 18 months of contentious litigation, the case proceeded to trial in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. After a week of trial, a unanimous jury returned a verdict in favor of T. J. Even though we presented no evidence to the jury of out-of-pocket damages, the jury still awarded the Plaintiff $300,000.00 for the violation of his civil rights.