Civil Case of Police Beating Still Pending in Galvan Matter


galvan-press-02.jpgPlaintiffs Allege Police Intentionally Inflicted Serious Bodily Injury on Brothers in 2005 Confrontation –

It has been over seven years since Ernesto Galvan’s life was changed dramatically with a beating in the early morning hours in June 14,  2005 at approximately 3:20 a.m. or shortly after.  Police beat Mr. Galvan, and to a lesser extent his brother Fermin, after they claim he resisted arrest near a West Sacramento Park.

Three jury trials later, the district attorney, apparently reluctantly, dropped the resisting and battery charges when it became clear they were unlikely to get 12 jurors to convict.  In the first two trials, it was a single hold-out, but the third trial was different – Fermin Galvan would be acquitted on one charge, and the split on the other charges shifted to the brothers’ favor.

Holes began appearing the police’s accounts, inconsistencies from trial to trial, more than simply a matter of the passage of time, suggesting that the police’s account might be more problematic than prosecutors and previous juries believed.  Most of all, the public was beginning to put pressure to drop the relatively minor charges and move on.

The DA, in January of 2011, finally decided not to seek a fourth trial.

“After the third trial, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office conducted a careful, thorough, and deliberate review of the case and the three jury trials,” the statement read.  “We determined there is sufficient evidence to establish proof of each defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; that 27 of the 36 jurors who have examined the evidence have agreed with us that there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to most counts; and that the officers acted within the confines of permissible use of force based on the circumstances and the defendants’ actions.”

However, ultimately they were convinced that there was a decreasing likelihood of obtaining a unanimous verdict of 12 members of the community in this matter.  “Therefore, it is our intent to seek a dismissal of all charges and to not proceed to a fourth trial,” the statement concluded.

As we learned in a hearing last month, the beating has left Mr. Galvan with a diminished mental capacity, where he is suffering from delusions and is unable to comprehend simple instructions.

According to the civil complaint, as a result of the beating by the police, Ernesto Galvan “suffered multiple skull and facial fractures, a severe concussion, fractures of the fingers on both hands, lacerations and bruising.”

The beating left him “comatose for several weeks, during which time he required assisted ventilation for his breathing.”

He has a permanent dent in the front of his skull and his frontal facial plate was pushed back 17 millimeters.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Galvan “has suffered a permanently diminished mental capacity, as well as partial paralysis on one side of his body. Said permanent disabilities have made it impossible for plaintiff [Ernesto Galvan] to return to the workplace where he had been previously gainfully employed full-time as a bricklayer, earning in excess of twenty dollars per hour.”

The plaintiffs argue: “Under the circumstances described in the General Allegations portion of this Complaint, Defendants’ police officers were not justified in using force likely to result in death or serious bodily injury to effectuate an arrest or to prevent an obstruction of that arrest. Prior to the altercation, plaintiff FERMIN was not suspected of any crime, and plaintiff ERNESTO was not wanted for any felony or inherently dangerous crime that posed a present risk of harm to the public.”

“In addition, at the time of the incident, neither Plaintiff was armed and neither Plaintiff posed a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to any police officer or the public,” the plaintiffs continue.  “As a result, the use of deadly force on the Plaintifs was unreasonable and totally without justification.”

According to the DA’s office’s version of events in the beating case, on June 14, 2005, at approximately 3:33 a.m., Officer Schlie of the West Sacramento Police Department noticed a car parked on Riverbank Road in West Sacramento. 

The release continued, describing that as Officer Schlie approached Riverbank Road, he noticed two men standing in the road.  Officer Schlie exited his patrol car and contacted the two subjects, later identified as Ernesto and Fermin Galvan. 

Upon contacting the two men, Officer Schlie noticed Ernesto Galvan was sweating profusely, was fidgety, and would not look him in the eyes.  Officer Schlie suspected that Ernesto Galvan was under the influence of a controlled substance and attempted to detain him to conduct a further evaluation.

Ernesto Galvan failed to comply with his requests and Officer Schlie grabbed him by the wrist, according to the release.

Ernesto Galvan pulled away, swung around and struck Officer Schlie in the chin.  Other officers had begun to arrive.  Galvan fought Officer Schlie and another officer for nearly four minutes.  The officers were unable to stop the onslaught of kicks and punches from Ernesto Galvan. During this struggle, the officers attempted to gain control and compliance from Ernesto by verbal commands, take-down techniques, the Taser and the use of batons. 

The DA’s version continues, stating that it was not until the officers used their batons that Ernesto Galvan stopped fighting.

Ernesto Galvan was charged with felony resisting arrest and obstructing Officers Schlie and Farrington by threats and violence, and misdemeanor battery on the same two police officers.  Fermin Galvan was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and obstruction by threats and violence against another officer, Officer Reeder, and misdemeanor obstructing/delaying of Officer Schlie, who was struggling with his brother.

However, as the cases drew on, clear inconsistencies in the officers’ accounts began to emerge.

As Mr. Palik told the Vanguard early in 2011, “I, personally, was very concerned during the third trial when one of the police officers claimed Mr. Ernesto Galvan was still wearing his boots at the time he was in restraints, and that being kicked by Mr. Galvan with his boots was the only way that officer could have torn his trousers during that incident.”

He continued, “This was especially concerning since the three officers who were actually involved in the altercation claimed steadfastly, through three trials, that Ernesto had kicked off his boots and took a barefoot ‘fighting stance’ prior to being subdued by the officers’ batons.”

Officer Schlie’s contention was that Ernesto Galvan appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance and, also, he was putting his hands in and out of his pockets.

According to court filings, the disagreement between the plaintiffs and the defendants in this case begins at the point when Officer Schlie exited his patrol car and began to speak with the Galvans.

According to a filing by the defense, they “deny that they violated the Plaintiffs’ rights, deny that they conspired to violate Plaintiffs’ rights, deny that they were negligent at any time during their contact with Plaintiffs, and maintain that Defendants were properly trained in the use of firearms.”

The defense adds that, while the officers deployed their batons during the incident, they deny the allegations that Ernesto Galvan was intentionally struck in the head with a baton and deny that he was struck with a baton while he was handcuffed.

They also deny that Fermin Galvan was struck in the face or on the back by Officer Reeder.

The defense continues: “Defendants contend that there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiffs and that their uses of force were reasonable under the circumstances and done in good faith to protect their safety and the safety of others due to Ernesto’s physical assault on the officers and both Plaintiffs’ continued resistance and obstruction of the officers during the incident. Defendants also contend that Fermin Galvan-Magana’s blood alcohol content at approximately 5:30 a.m. the morning of the incident was .178 percent.”

In dispute is whether the officers had reasonable cause to believe that the location was a high crime area and whether Officer Schlie had reasonable cause to believe that Ernesto Galvan “was exhibiting signs of being under the influence of drugs.”

There is dispute as to who initiated the physical altercation.  The defense claims that Ernesto Galvan did by striking Officer Schlie.  The defense also contends that Ernesto Galvan struck Officer Farrington.

There is dispute as to whether the Galvans were exhibiting signs of being under the influence of drugs.  The defense maintains that Ernesto Galvan admitted to being under the influence.  There is also significant question about whether Fermin Galvan was under the influence of alcohol.

There are questions about whether the officers believed that the Galvans were going to harm them and whether the officers acted in self-defense or defense of another during the incident.

Furthermore, there are disputes as to the intent of the baton strikes – whether they were intended to hit the brothers in the head or more vulnerable spots on the body, or whether they kept aiming at the lower body and the blows just kept being deflected.

There is also some question about the injury that Fermin Galvan suffered to his teeth.  The plaintiffs believe it was a baton blow, while the officers maintain he fell.

Remarkably, there is dispute as to whether Ernesto Galvan’s injury prevents him working, whether the officers were properly trained on the use of firearms and use of force, and whether the officers acted with malice, oppression or in reckless disregard of the plaintiffs’ rights.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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One thought on “Civil Case of Police Beating Still Pending in Galvan Matter”

  1. Nemesis

    This case shows, in so many ways, what is wrong with our legal system. The fact that the DA’s office tried a case three times and was thinking about going for a fourth trial is a disgusting abuse of power and a huge waste of tax dollars. The police beat the crap out of two people and after a while their story began to fall apart shows another abuse of power. These brothers deserve compensation for being beaten and harassed by both the police and the DA’s office.

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