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Suit Alleges Deputy Used Excessive Force, Was Protected by Sheriff's Department

A Ramona teen is claiming assault, battery, violation of civil rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from an alleged 2009 incident.

A Ramona teen who has accused Sheriff's Department staff of assault and battery and violation of civil rights is due to hear by July 5 whether his case might be litigated or be settled early.

The teen's attorney served county staff with a lawsuit last week, which claims: "It was plainly obvious to the county and Sheriff's Department that the involved deputy was a dangerous and violent employee, prone to physically harass and batter people he perceives to be a problem for him ... all of which was indicative of a policy, practice and custom to negligently hire ... deputy sheriffs."

The suit further alleges that Sheriff's Department staff worked in concert to cover up misconduct and that there are county customs and policies of "using excessive force on citizens, refusing to supervise, reprimand and/or discipline law enforcement officers/deputies who engage in misconduct." It states that the county provides, "inadequate training ... with respect to the apprehension of suspects" and calls the alleged deeds a "gross abuse of governmental authority and power" which were carried out "maliciously" and which "shock the conscience."

The case revolves around an alleged incident on Main Street on the night of Dec. 29, 2009, during which—according to the lawsuit—a sheriff's deputy allegedly "confronted" the minor after an employee at a restaurant told the deputy someone had been tampering with cars behind a building. The complaint states that the boy was skateboarding along Main Street after calling his mother to pick him up and that he had been visiting a friend who was working at a fast food restaurant.

The lawsuit claims Deputy Thomas Seiver illegally searched the minor, seized his cell phone and would not let him call his mother, punched him in the face twice, choked him, threw him down on the pavement, ground his face into the shopping center parking lot and then unjustifiably detained him, constituting "false charges" and "an illegal arrest and booking."

Specifically, the suit accuses numerous county employees of assault and battery, violating the teen's civil rights, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and negligence. Several staff are named and another 50 personnel are included as "DOES 1 through 50" and are not named.

The plaintiff is referenced as J.K.G. because he was a minor at the time of the filing of the complaint.

Ramona attorney Julie Kiehne-Lamkin served the county with the lawsuit on June 13.

"There are serious constitutional violations," Kiehne-Lamkin said to Ramona Patch on Monday. "I get to pick and choose the cases I take. I believe in this case."

She said her client had just turned 16 at the time of the alleged incident. He is now 17.

The complaint states that the teen was unarmed and showed no signs that he would resist arrest or be a threat.

Kiehne-Lamkin said county counsel has 21 days—until July 5—to respond. The suit seeks damages of more than $1 million and a jury trial. It was filed with the U.S. District Court.

A spokeperson for the Sheriff's Department declined comment and told Patch by email, "This is a pending legal matter that was very recently referred to County Counsel."

The deputy counsel who has been given the case was out of the office on Monday. 

Sheriff's personnel named in the suit are: Deputy Thomas Seiver, Detective Barbara Crozier, Deputy Jason Ward, Deputy Paul Mehaffie III and Sgt. George Calderon.

The lawsuit claims Sheriff's Department staff did not provide medical care to the boy, though he was allegedly bleeding when he was taken to Ramona Sheriff's substation. It further states that he has incurred medical costs as a result and also a loss of past and future wages and that his earning capacity has been diminished.

The teenager filed a claim against the county for damages in June 2010 but the claim was denied two months later, according to the lawsuit. The suit also alleges that he was subject to "false and unjust juvenile court proceedings," stating that the district attorney charged him with one felony count of resisting an executive officer and two misdemeanors related to battery of a peace officer and resisting a peace officer. According to the complaint, that case was dismissed by the judge after presentations by both sides.

Kiehne-Lamkin said her client has suffered mental and emotional anguish and the indignity of the events. She is seeking general and punitive damages and attorney's fees on his behalf.

The attorney said she has practiced civil litigation for more than 20 years, including cases related to real estate, insurance and restraining orders.

Seiver, Ward and Mehaffie still work out of the Ramona substation, she said. Calderon works out of the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego, and Crozier is posted at the Santee Sheriff's station, Kiehne-Lamkin said.

Sandi Garth June 21, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Not surprising news, just sad that it is probably true...
Jolinda June 21, 2011 at 10:32 PM
I agree that there is serious misuse of power with the Sheriff's Department in Ramona. Our son, now 27, was stopped on grounds of "loud music", physically assaulted, drug out of his car - which was then searched, accused of being on drugs - none found or proven - and all in front of dozens of high school students as he pulled into the parking lot to pick up his younger sister after school. We didn't pursue the matter as it seems hopeless. I have great respect for this young man and his family and perhaps something can be changed.
Julie Pendray June 22, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Deputy County Counsel David Axtmann, who is handling this case, informed Ramona Patch on Wednesday that the county intends to litigate the lawsuit.
AMPrescott June 22, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Of course it couldn't possibly be true that the minor involved is lying about the incident or that he probably did resist arrest and was caught tampering/vandalizing cars and then decided to be a tough guy and fight? Or that the minor's parents are trying to tap into a perceived cash cow because they refuse to believe their child was being a little criminal. Oh no. It couldn't possibly be that. Much easier to blame the deputies for their failure to parent.
Joyceann August 17, 2011 at 10:49 PM
I personally know one of these officers and have for many years as a close friend and this guy is one of the best people out there. So for all of you out there who doubt him and his integerity, this is a shame that you do not know the truth. :(
Jolinda August 18, 2011 at 03:34 PM
I appreciate this feedback. It has helped me to hold a more open minded opinion about this suit and what may or may not have happened. Just because our son had one bad experience in the 20 plus years we have lived here, does mean that this is true of all the good hearted and courageous people that work for the Sheriff's Department. We are very glad that they are out there protecting us! Thanks for the post, Joyceann.
renee September 03, 2011 at 06:10 AM
Well I am the mother of this boy and I do know the truth. Joyceann- you are the person that does know the truth. (with all respect) Please follow the story and you will see that this was way out of line. Maybe Your "officer friend" is a ok person off duty, but with a badge on he turns into an abusive power hungry jerk that beats little kids. My son was an easy going guy with a great personality, now he has changed. It is heartbreaking to know that I taught my sons to respect law enforcement and then this happens.
Bonnie September 03, 2011 at 05:10 PM
BW - I too have had a son who has had an unfortunate incident at the hands of deputies - not San Diego, but deputies; called into a situation at gun point told to lay on the ground - had a shotgun at his head - 3 deputies jump on him, one put his boot on his face, handcuff him AND then when a neighbor came out and said "I have you on camera" they then startd yelling "stop resisting, stop resisting" and charged him with resisting arrest. We have filed a lawsuit against the county of occurence PURELY to make sure this does not happen to others; have you heard abouit the man who died in Fullerton after a beating because they "thought" he was vandalizing cars?. How about the man who was shot by San Bernardino Deputies, because he failed to stop after a traffice violation and instead pulled into a lighted parking lot? The public needs to realize that YOU MUST STAND UP FOR THE RIGHT THING - even if it is a lengthy, costly affair. Just as in politics, if you let it continue (abuses) it will only get worse. Also, yes a person can be the nicest person (and fun), but put them with other deputies who have the mentality of 'badge heavy' rather than remain that nice person they will join with the others for fear of being labled "weak". How do I know this - I am a retired deputy and have seen and have almost gotten pulled into it. To the mother of the teen keep going. If you believe in your son - keep going. You will be helping others in the long run.
CDUB September 03, 2011 at 08:08 PM
It seems the recurring theam here is "it's not my sons fault. It the sheriffs abuse of power. Seems that you momies out there better keep a closer eye on your sons and you cops out there better think twice before putting your hands on these poor young innocent boys.........

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