This jury obviously thought that the cop used too much force, but it didn't want to say so.
Homeless advocate awarded $4,000 in arrest case
By Kristina Davis
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
May 2, 2011
A jury on Monday found that a San Diego police officer used unreasonable force and was negligent during a 2009 sidewalk encounter that left a longtime homeless advocate injured.
The jury awarded $2,925 for medical costs to activist John David Ross, known as the “Water Man,” and another $1,000 for physical pain and emotional suffering.
The verdict read in San Diego Superior Court went in favor of Officer Daniel McLaughlin on several other points, finding that his conduct was lawful, that he didn’t assault Ross, and that he acted in good faith when he detained Ross in the East Village.
The mixed verdict seemed to please both the officer, a 12-year veteran of the force, and Ross, best known for handing out bottled water to the homeless.
“I’m very happy with the verdict,” McLaughlin said after the verdict was read. “I was found not to be at fault almost completely.”
Outside of the courtroom, Ross shook McLaughlin’s hand, to which the officer replied, “See you out there.”
Ross said later that he has no ill will toward the officer and hopes to continue to work with the Police Department on homeless issues.
“I’m elated. I’m very happy,” Ross said. “It sends a message to our city in general that we must use tolerance, justice and restraint and not ID and profile people due to circumstances. You should treat people in La Jolla and Point Loma the same as you treat people in the inner city.”
Ross, who was 74 at the time, claimed in his lawsuit that he was distributing water from the back of his vehicle on March 15, 2009, when McLaughlin pulled up and told the crowd to disperse. The officer then threw one of the homeless men, Myron Hill, against a wall, Ross testified.
When Ross asked what was happening, the officer twisted Ross’ arm and tossed him to the ground.
Ross said he suffered a concussion and exacerbated an old injury to his right shoulder.
Another man, Marvin Britton, crossed 17th Street to help Ross and was also shoved by the officer, according to the lawsuit.
The jury, which took two days to deliberate on the weeklong trial, found that McLaughlin did not use unreasonable force against Hill and Britton and that he was within his rights as a police officer to detain both.