Federal Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Teen Brutalized by Stockton Police – 2 Officers Already Fired

Devin Carter – photos courtesy John Burris Law

By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

STOCKTON, CA – Law enforcement beatings and killings of Black and other people of color – despite the anti-police brutality movement, nationwide protests and new legislation – continue, and they’re becoming more visible in recent years in large part because of bystander cell phone video, and law enforcement dash and body camera video.

At a news conference here Saturday to announce yet another lawsuit against Stockton Police – a near million dollar settlement in another case was revealed just last month – police-generated video was on full display of a horrific beat down of a 17-year-old Black Stockton teen by four or more Stockton cops.

Two officers have now been fired for their part in the attack of the youth last Dec. 30 after a traffic stop.

Attorney John Burris announced the filing Friday of a civil rights suit in U.S. District court, naming as defendants the City of Stockton, Officers Michael Stiles, Daniel Velarde, Vincent Magana, Omar Villapudua and unnamed defendants.

Stiles and Villapudua were fired after a three month probe last week, and under criminal investigation by the District Attorney.

Burris, who represents families who have lost loved ones to police violence, has seen this kind of cop mayhem many times before, including as the attorney for Rodney King decades ago as police beat him into submission in an act that stunned the nation.

“These (Stockton) vicious cops acted like a pack of wolves, and Devin (Carter) was their evening meal. I have not seen a police officer beating this outrageous since my former client Rodney King was beaten by LAPD officers back in March of 1991,” said Burris.

“Stockton Police Officers Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua, without any provocation or cause, pulled the young Black man from his car and viciously beat him.  (Video) captures these two recently fired officers and two additional Stockton Police Officers repeatedly punching and kicking Devin about his face and back while calling him profane names and using threats of criminal prosecutions for crimes he had not committed,” according to a statement released by Burris’ office.

While Carter curled up in a ball in an attempt to withstand the kicks and punches, even the language used by police was shocking.

“Give up your f*****g hands…stop resisting… asshole,” were some of the recorded expletives on the body and dash cam video.

Meanwhile, Carter – who did not appear to resist at all and attempted to cooperate as officers viciously yanked him out of his car – repeatedly said “I am not resisting” in response to conflicting orders.

“No mother should see or hear her son beaten by the police and helplessly crying from the pain. This has been a mother’s worse nightmare,” said the victim’s mother, Jessica Carter.

Later, Carter said he was afraid that the officers were going to beat him to death. When he had a chance to see the officer video Saturday, Carter said he had those same feelings – that he was going to die – all over again.

“The officers’ conduct was so atrocious that they should be criminally prosecuted. The most troubling aspect of this case is that these officers must have believed that they were somehow immune from department discipline and could get away with their conduct knowing that their body-worn cameras were on,” said Burris.

Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones pointed out that not was excessive force used, but the use of feet and hands to punish Carter in the head and neck regions during the arrest was “particularly egregious.” Jones wouldn’t name other officers he said he has disciplined and would describe how they were disciplined.

Burris and other community leaders applauded the dismissal of Villapudua and Stiles and Villapudua, but demanded the firing of the other involved officers involved and their criminal prosecution.

Carter was driving when he saw the flashing lights of a patrol car, and remembering how Black men and women have been treated by police, decided to drive a short distance to a relative’s house. But police rammed his car – after doing the same to a passing car – when he pulled over.

In the footage, Carter is bum-rushed by police yelling at him, and swearing at him, while Carter appears to be cooperating but panicked, telling officers he is “not resisting.”

In a statement to media, Carter said, “All I was focused on was I need to protect myself, so I don’t die.” He said he kept thinking about Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis last May.

Carter’s back, and face were “stomped” on, said Burris, who added officers broke Carter’s nose. On Friday, Burris filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Carter for damages against the city of Stockton and four Stockton police officers.

The federal lawsuit states officers “yanked open Devin Carter’s driver side door and aggressively pulled him out…slammed him to the ground without justification and warning. Devin Carter immediately curled up in a fetal position as multiple officers gathered around him and viciously beat him with their closed fists and feet. Devin Carter was kneed in his face by an officer and was struck in the face a number of times. Additionally, Devin Carter was kicked and kneed in his side and back.”

The pleading continued, “As Devin Carter laid on the grown in a fetal position, one officer viciously struck Devin Carter in the face with his knee. Officers’ body camera footage shows that multiple officers began to repeatedly punch, knee, and kick Devin Carter in his face, neck, and back as he laid in a fetal position screaming in agony.”

The lawsuit noted the Carter’s injuries included “bruised eyes, one in which was bloodshot, scuff marks, including what appeared to be a shoe or boot impression present on the left side of (his) face…(and) injuries to his back which appeared to be another shoe or boot print, scuff marks and abrasions.”

The community released a list of demands including, release the names and disciplinary records of all the officers involved, including those who watched and did not intervene; Fire all the officers involved in assault and attack of Devin Carter; District Attorney Tori Salazar to bring charges against the officers who brutally beat Devin Carter, as well as those who were complicit in the attack; Disband the Community Response Team (CRT); Give the public an update on the protocol investigation between District Attorney Tori Salazar’s office and all the law enforcement agencies involved in the incident; Establish a new policy for incidents involving youth under 18 years old, relating to the release of information to a parent or guardian, and ensuring the right for a child advocate when involving any incident with law enforcement; Implement a ‘duty to intervene’ policy requiring officers to intercede and prevent fellow officers from subjecting a person to excessive force; Commit one to two percent of American Rescue Plan dollars allocated to Stockton to fund peace and violence prevention efforts.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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