Disabled man files lawsuit against San Luis Obispo police officer

March 14, 2011

By KAREN VELIE

The lawyer for a developmentally disabled Atascadero man, who said he was physically assaulted in March 2010 by an off-duty San Luis Obispo police officer, filed a lawsuit against the city and the officer seeking damages last week.

Scott Summers, 50, said he was the victim of an unjustified assault and battery by police officer Scott Cramer.

“Our primary position is Scott Cramer was acting under color of law assaulting this man and explaining he is a police officer,” said James McKiernan, Summers’ attorney. “We have received two calls that cast suspicion that this is not the first time this has happened.”

On March 18, 2010 Summers, who lives in a disabled housing facility, was happy when a local auto repair shop loaned him a BMW to temporarily replace his old truck, which was being repaired.

On the way to show his father the BMW, Summers passed a red truck on Old Morro Road East in Atascadero. According to the suit, Cramer, with his 8-year-old son in his truck, began racing up to Summers’ bumper engaging in road rage.

Shortly after Summers sat down on his parents’ couch, Cramer ran down the driveway.

Summers stepped outside, on to  his parents’ porch, to find out what the unknown visitor wanted.

“Without any provocation, Officer Cramer began to yell at Summers and then, without warning began punching Summers, including hard blows to his neck and head, next throwing him though his parents closed storm door, breaking the glass and ripping the door from its hinges, and continued the beating inside the parents’ home in front of his aged and infirm parents,” the lawsuit says.

Inside the house, his panicked stepmother called 911.

Summers claimed he was screaming for help and for someone to call 911. Cramer, Summers said, began saying he was a police officer.

Cramer subsequently apologized for his actions, saying that he just found out that a relative had cancer and that he had his 8-year-old son in the car, witnesses said. He then left before Atascadero police arrived after providing his address.

The suit contends that the city of San Luis Obispo has a duty to hire, train and supervise officers to avoid the infliction of harm and excessive force on citizens. The police department, known for bringing ultimate fighting champion Chuck Liddel into the department to teach officers street-fighting techniques, is accused of for not training and supervising officers in a fashion as to avoid harm and the use of excess force upon the public.

In an interesting twist, public records regarding this incident have been kept from Summers and the media. Atascadero Police department’s supervisor, Ann Jutras, contends that the department does not have to release the tape because there was an investigation into the incident. She also said that the department is protecting the privacy rights of the victims.

Both the 911 caller and Summers have given their permission to have the tape released.

The police report, also a public record, was partially provided to Summers without information that a mysterious supplemental report is the reason the San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office declined prosecuting Cramer.

Atascadero police have refused to comply to several requests for a copy of the supplemental report under the premise that police reports are not public records.

District Attorney officials, who agreed that police reports are considered public records, said they sent the Atascadero Police report back to the department without making a copy, as the reason they failed to respond to a CalCoastNews records request for the report.

Atascadero police Sgt. Jeff Wilshusen said that the supplemental report states that Cramer claimed the physical altercation was “mutual.”


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Cindy

We won’t know the facts until the APD releases the report and the “other report” that they issued to the DA. Even the victim is unaware of what the APD determined to be the “facts”. I wouldn’t be so fast to blame the DA until we force the APD to comply with the public records act. The APD has refused to release a copy of the 911 call and report despite requests for it, as early as 3 days after the attack.


I find that Atascadero is the worst of all cities where compliance with the public records act are concerned. They do in fact decide what isn’t any of the tax payers business unless they want us to know, then they play with semantics and attempt to foist their condescending excuses. It’s time that they get sued and put in their place. This problem also exists with our city hall and the problem starts there.


hotdog

Well, if we have problems with local PDs (and we do with almost all) where is the DA in cleaning up the mess? He is part of the mess, he should be in jail.


choprzrul

Congratulations SLO county, you managed to elect a sheriff from this exact pool of talent. Is this type of police action and/or mentality something new to people?


Public Servant == Serve the public


NOT


Public Servant == Public is subservient to law enforcement gods


Since the DA won’t do his job, it is time for the Grand Jury to start working overtime.


Typoqueen

I agree with what you’re saying chop. Although I don’t want to convict the cop in question before hearing all the facts, I feel that it was really bad to elect a Sheriff that already worked in what appears to be a fairly corrupt dept. It would have been nice to get someone in there from the outside that wasn’t already buddies with the past corrupt sheriff.


choprzrul

I am glad that we have finally found something that we can agree upon Typoqueen :-)


However:


“Although I don’t want to convict the cop in question before hearing all the facts…”


Keep in mind that law enforcement will not hesitate to arrest a citizen and then let the DA sort out the facts at a later date. Guilty or not, the citizen is left with an ‘arrest’ on his record.


What’s good for the goose….


slojo

chop….just curious, have you ever been arrested? I’m sure you didn’t do anything wrong…..


choprzrul

I am no saint and am not referring to myself. I have never been afoul of the law beyond traffic related stuff.


I was commenting on the duality of standards. A citizen can be arrested ‘on suspicion of…’ and end up with an arrest on their record. At the same time, law enforcement requires a full blown department investigation, hearings before boards, consultation with the union, etc before so much as a black mark is left on their employment record.


Kinda seems like we are playing by 2 different sets of rules, doesn’t it?


Typoqueen

There is absolutely two sets of rules. I’m not saying that all cops are bad but I have to agree with chop, they have everyone who counts behind them and we don’t. What ever happened to the cop that was found drunk on the side of the road? What happened to that poor woman that was afraid of her (alleged) abusive cop husband, and Tony Perry etc..? Look what happened to Linch in Morro Bay. He thought that he was following state law, he will be sent up the river while those cops will walk and in some cases even get promoted. There has been numerous stories in SLO and Atas. that demonstrate that they do get away with quite a bit more than we could.


“I am glad that we have finally found something that we can agree upon”


@chop, what a surprise eh,,, I’m sure there’s another political debate coming up soon and then we’ll be thrown back into the ring. :)


hotdog

Dumb comment and beside the point. We have two standards here, plain as day. The cop is free for over a year with NO consequences, a civilian would have been in jail and drained of resources before doing time.

The cops here (some on the street, some in the offices that control records etc) are crooks-just look at the bogus dope raid of a couple months ago on upstanding citizens. The marauding cops wore ski masks, just like the death squads we support around the world to terrorize civilians!!!


mkaney

I’m shocked, SLOJO makes a comment in support of public safety personnel, insinuating that a commenter must dislike them because they are criminals… Haven’t seen that presumptuous tactic before I’m wondering, is that like day 1 of public relations 101 for public safety personnel and their families?


slojo

It wasn’t a comment in support of public safety, that’s just how you interpreted it I guess.


It just seems to me that there are a lot of cop haters out there and I’m wondering if most of those cop haters are people who have gotten in trouble with the cops. People get mad at people when they get in trouble.


If the cop broke the law, by all means, he should be treated like any other person who broke the same law.


Just because I usually do support public safety does not mean I think they are above the law.


Typoqueen

Slojo, I believe it’s human nature that when people read an article like this that they all jump on the bandwagon and automatically become judge and jury, not just with cops but with any story (especially if it involves child molestation). It’s like the old west days and lynch mobs. I sometimes find myself doing the same thing, but it is a good idea to take a breath, step back and wait for the facts to come in. Yes there are plenty of problems with SLO law enforcement but even they should be allowed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.


SLOBIRD

I think everyone has it wrong… LE should be held to a HIGHER standard than the rest of us. Tthey should be the role models, the folks we rely on , trust to serve and protect us, have our children look up to, etc. In this County (maybe everywhere) there is a sense that they are ABOVE the law because of who they are. When did things go so wrong???


Typoqueen

@SLOBIRD, I don’t disagree with you, you are right. But so far we don’t know for sure what happened. If this story is accurate then you are spot on.


ApathyWillKillYou

If an OFF DUTY police officer has an anger problem so bad that he beats up civilians in their own home just imagine what they are like on the job with a unifom and a GUN!


Our county is in REAL trouble with officials failing to be transparent to the lowly public.


How many ordinary people in SLO county knew of this incident and other similar LEO abuses?

The Trib and KSBY won’t run these type of stories. And when the only REAL investigative reporting in the county is done by CalCoast News they are blocked at every turn by law enforcement agencies and the district attorney’s office!


We are in big trouble people when we have to FEAR the police on and off the job!


bobfromsanluis

I had a small business in downtown San Luis on a major arterial street that sees a lot of traffic and my business was very close to one of the downtown bars so I got to see the police officers of San Luis Obispo several times. I was also pulled over twice by the SLO PD for a potential traffic or vehicle violation. In all of these instances I never got the feeling that the officer felt that he was somehow “better than me” or that there was any other sort of “attitude”. In another instance, a SLO PD officer left his patrol car parked on my busy street up against a red curb and it caused a real traffic problem because drivers were thinking that the patrol car was not “parked”; I walked a little way to find the officer and mentioned that his car was causing a real traffic problem and he informed me that he was able to park his vehicle anyplace he needed to and it was “okay” to do so, at which time I acknowledged that he “could” do that, but in this instance perhaps it might be better to move it around the corner were it wouldn’t be such a problem. The officer looked around at the situation, thought about it for a moment and then told me that I was probably right so he went and moved his vehicle.

My point in bringing up these examples is that every officer on duty can be courteous and respectful and in my experiences it certainly helps if you have that attitude with them as well. That being said however, the possibility that there are officers who do have a bad attitude towards all members of society is very real, and I have no doubt that there are officers who really have no business being in law enforcement due to their attitude and previously exhibited behavior. The most egregious behavior here though, IMO, is the that by the law enforcement departments in their circling of their wagons to protect “one of their own”. Police reports are supposed to be a factual recording of what the reporting officers observed based on the interviews they conducted and the investigation of the physical evidence and as such they MUST be shared with the citizen that has a problem with an officer of the law as well as that citizen’s attorney. To hold those reports under some sort of guise of “confidentiality” is an act of open defiance and should be investigated by the District Attorney, but our D.A., Mr. Shea, has by past example proven himself unable or more likely, unwilling to hold any government official to the scrutiny of the laws that we are all supposed to follow. It is a real shame since if we had a D.A. who would do the job he was elected to do, Kelly Gearhart would be in jail now, not waiting for a federal investigation or being ignored like some others in our county.


SewerHeightsRez

The prevailing attitude of law enforcement, from the top down is that they are better then you the guilty law breaking public, they are above the law and not subject to the same rules or treatment as you sucker stupid “civilians”, and that they are fully justified to lie and cheat in any dealings with any non-leo person or entity. They are separate, better, and at war with any person or entity who questions their authority, power or privaledge, and any dollar amount can be justified for their bloated salaries and pensions because they are so much more special then you the idiotic public. Dare to question them or demand accountablility and you will be targeted and attacked.


fat chance

I’m going to try and keep this simple. Not all leo are bad guys!!


racket

I will go one better:


Maybe even this LEO is not a bad guy. We won’t know until it is investigated.


Part of the background chatter I hear is that DA Shea is a reticent prosecutor. I am starting to believe that.


Typoqueen

This might be a first but I agree that we need to step back until all of the facts of the case come out. This story is one sided. I’m no fan of SLO law enforcement, they’ve scr@wed up time and time again but I don’t generally believe in the standard guilty until proven innocent mindset. The one thing that doesn’t look good is the statement by the LEO. If he didn’t do anything wrong then why is he sorry and what difference does it make if someone has cancer or their son was there? And the broken door thing doesn’t sound good either. But you just never know when an article like this might be showing a heavy bias due to a lack of all of the facts.


kellygirl

Typoqueen wants to wait until all the facts are in. Oh, really. Exactly what facts would justify an off duty cop involved with A DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED MAN. Am I missing something here, Typo? Or are you going to dispute the victim’s mental status. Under what circumstances is it justified for an off-duty cop to beat on a disabled man? I’m really curious on that one.


racket

kelly: Maybe the man’s disability is some sort of failure to discern appropriate actions (as evidenced by his dangerous passing manuever in the car). Maybe he took the door off the hinges and whacked the cop with it. We really don’t know until we hear both sides, or perform an investigation.


I am not saying by any means that the cop was justified. What I am saying is that I do not know. Neither do you.


Typoqueen

Kelly, racket’s answer was good enough, I agree 100% with him/her.


I learned my lesson during the famous McMartin Preschool case. I really thought that they were guilty. All of the papers and TV news showed horrific testimony by kids saying that they were molested. Everyone hated them. All of the so called ‘expert’ shrinks said that the McMartins were guilty. At the end of the day, they weren’t. It’s also amazing how many times the press gets some of these stories wrong. When someone close to me was killed in a car accident, the media reported that she was alive and well. It happens all the time. If we knew from a simple news story who was guilty and who wasn’t then why do we need trials, just lock em up and throw away the key.


undertow

You are correct, however given the small number of police compared to general population numbers it only takes one bad apple to screw things up. In SLO county there are a few bad branches we’ll say, and its the responsibility of our Police chiefs, DA and Attorney General to cut the branches off and run them thru the chipper, get with it elected officials, were losing our patients.


standup

Sounds like a punk cop to me. They think the badge gives them power to run our lives and direct us any way they want. Yes, there are some respectable officers out there but this is a prime example of an officer who is beyond his duty. If the guy made an unsafe pass, so be it. Give him a ticket and move on. Get a good attorney and have the officer lose his qualified immunity and then you can go after his own pocket book. Having an ultimate fighter teach these guys techniques to be used against someone when that kind of force is not warranted is a crime in itself. Was this your idea Ian?


SLOTECH90

The sense of entitlement and being “special” that I have observed in LEO’s ever since 9/11 is

growing not just in Atascadero or San Luis Obispo but nationally. I cannot remember when I have heard so many negative/derogatory comments made by citizens as a result of incidents like this. Con-

clusion: THE POLICEMAN IS DEFINITLY NOT YOUR FRIEND!


danika

Once again, LEO’s gone wild. Will it ever stop?


Tired

Sounds like a new TV show