ASHLAND, Ore. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is suing the city of Ashland, Oregon, for $2 million over the arrest of a Latino man who was handcuffed to the floor of a jail cell.
ACLU filed the lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court on behalf of Juan A. Sancho Friday, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. It says Ashland police violated Sancho’s civil rights by arresting him without probable cause.
The lawsuit additionally alleges that Chief Tighe O’Meara failed to train his officers on de-escalation strategies and on how bias plays out in encounters with people of color and how “the fear people of color have of police would lead to unlawful and escalated police responses.”
Sancho, who goes by Tony, lives in Pasadena, California, and was working as an actor with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when arrested.
Early on April 18, 2019, he was walking on Ashland’s Main Street after socializing with friends. O’Meara last year told The Oregonian/OregonLive officers responded to a report of a man who had passed out. When they approached Sancho, he got up and tried to walk away but was “seemingly very intoxicated.”
Officer Ty Ridout approached Sancho and their encounter was captured on the officer’s body camera. Two other officers, Scott Wenzel and Brian Greidanus, and a sergeant, Robert Leonard, also arrived at the scene.
The men tried but were unable to get Sancho’s home address or the name of someone who could get him home safely, the body camera video shows. One officer told Sancho he was headed to detox and he and the officers grab him.
Upset, Sancho was captured on the footage saying he wouldn’t relax “because I’m a brown man in this situation.”
Sancho is of Mexican descent. The officers were white.
Instead of detox, Sancho was booked into the Jackson County Jail, where security video shows three deputies tackling him. One deputy is seen on the recording kneeing Sancho in the back and on his side and another deputy placed his knee on Sancho’s upper back and neck.
He was booked on an accusation of resisting arrest. He was booked at 3:20 a.m. and released at 12:45 p.m. The charges were dropped.
The lawsuit names the officers and the police chief as defendants. O’Meara declined to comment Monday to the newspaper on Sancho’s claims, citing the pending litigation.
The lawsuit says Sancho wants to “compel the Ashland Police Department to re-think its use-of-force tactics and build compassion, rather than blind coercion, into genuine community-oriented training and tactics around civilian interactions arising from non-criminal and/or nonviolent conduct.”