By Michael Wheeler
OAKLAND, CA – A federal jury in Oakland Thursday ruled in favor of Andy Martin, a San Jose resident who sued San Jose police officer Alexandre Vieira-Ribeiro and the City of San Jose for damages after he was run over by Vieira-Ribeiro during a police chase.
The chase began after security at the Eastridge Mall called police, alleging that Martin and his cousin had threatened to stab the guard and shoot them, despite being unarmed. Martin fled on foot, with Vieira-Ribeiro following in his patrol car.
While turning a corner in an attempt to curtail Martin’s flight, Vieira-Ribeiro drove his patrol car into Martin before reversing the vehicle, once again running over Martin.
The collision, which occurred on May 2, 2018, left Martin with multiple pelvic fractures, a fractured right ankle, and a fractured right fibula.
According to body camera footage from Vieira-Ribeira, the defendant told Martin after the crash, “No one ran over you, dude,” before falsely telling another officer that the incident had occurred because Martin had stopped moving, leaving Vieira-Ribeira no option but to hit him.
The footage shows instead that Vieira-Ribeira had turned his vehicle into Martin, which resulted in the initial collision. As Vieira-Ribeira got out of his car, he reversed it, once more running over Vieira-Ribeira and causing the injuries to Martin’s right leg.
Martin filed suit on March 6, 2019, for both violations of his civil rights and negligence on the part of the police. He only received a favorable verdict for the negligence claim, but the jury did not find that the officer was solely responsible.
The jury awarded Martin $6 million in damages for the incident, greatly exceeding settlement offers made by the City of San Jose, $2 million of which were for economic damages and the remaining $4 million stemming from emotional distress.
They also ruled that 60 percent of the blame lay with Ribeiro, while 40 percent lay with Martin. As a result, Martin will only receive 60 percent of the recovery awarded by the jury.
Noted civil rights attorney John Burris, who represented Martin, was pleased with the result.
“Justice has prevailed after two years of deliberate misstatements and misdirection by San Jose Police Officer Alexandre Vieira-Ribeiro. The jury’s award of $6 million to my client Andy Martin delivered a clear notice that the police cannot be allowed to use their vehicle as a weapon.”
Attorney Ben Nisenbaum, who also represented Martin, also expressed his pleasure at the verdict. He felt that the monetary settlement was important for Martin’s future, saying, “The jury’s verdict will provide for Mr. Martin to live as close to a normal life as possible now.”
Michael Wheeler is a junior at UC Davis, where he studies History and Economics. He is from Walnut Creek, California.
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