Lawyers for the family of Pedro Gonzales, who died while in Pasadena Police Department custody in 2007, today announced a federal lawsuit against the two officers the family says beat Gonzales just hours before his death, Jason Buckaloo and Christopher Jones and the city of Pasadena.
At a press conference announcing the action, members of the deceased's family -- his widow Diana Gonzalez, his mother Maria Gonzalez, and his sister Elvia Garza -- sat surrounded by family photos which showed a happy Gonzales before his death and graphic police photos of his dead body lying on the floor of a Pasadena jail cell. His mother cried softly while attorney Jay Jackson talked to the press.
"The lawsuit alleges that officers Buckaloo and Jones violated Pedro Gonzales's rights under the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects him from unreasonable search and seizure," Jackson said. That allegedly unreasonable search and seizure was a beating by Officers Buckaloo and Jones while they attempted to arrest him for suspected public intoxication.
(The two officers faced charges regarding the incident but were later acquitted; a spokesperson for the Pasadena Police Department declined to make any comment on the suit.)
On the day of his death, Gonzalez had just been released from the City of Pasadena jail when he met officers Buckaloo and Jones. Believing he was drunk, they attempted to arrest him. (Later toxicology reports showed he had no alcohol or illegal drugs in his system.) When he resisted, the officers allegedly beat him. A passerby called 911 to report the incident, but no ambulance or supervisor was dispatched to the scene.
Gonzales was taken to the Pasadena jail, booked and put in a cell alone. A few hours later he was found dead.
"The arrest was for resisting arrest," says Jackson ironically, " which never would have happened if the officers had performed field sobriety tests."
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No money amount has been specified in the suit as of yet. Jackson insists it isn't money the family wants, but change. "It is our hope that the City of Pasadena will review its policies and change those policies with regard to medical treatment for men and women who are being held in jail," said Jackson. "The city of Pasadena is a fine place and they deserve a police department of which they can be proud. They don't have that right now."
Asked for a statement, Gonzales's mother spoke in Spanish, saying , "My son didn't just die, he was killed," "I want justice. He lived with me ... he wasn't a bad person...why did they do this to him?"
After the press conference, Gonzales's widow packed up the photos of her husband, pointedly ignoring the police shots. "This was a happy day," she says pointing to a shot of the couple with their daughter. "Not now," she said, her tone changing. "Now all my daughter will have is a scrap book to remember her father."
Asked what she would consider justice for her husband, she said, "Nothing. Nothing will ever make this right."