Sheriff Parkinson admits to officer brutality
January 21, 2013
By KAREN VELIE
In response to a citizen complaint, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson confirmed that under the color of authority a deputy used excessive and unnecessary force in dealing with a minor traffic violation.
Under former sheriff Pat Hedges, the internal investigation unit had been disbanded. In 2010 there were 25 complaints against sheriff department employees. In 2011, Parkinson announced his plans to bring back the internal affairs unit to investigate citizens’ complaints brought against sheriff’s department personnel.
In the case of a Nipomo family illegally brutalized by several officers last summer, the sheriff department investigation determined one of three officers accused of excessive force had acted inappropriately.
Last July, Deputy Steven Hurl pulled behind Jesus Ruiz who had just pulled into a driveway after leaving church. The 5 foot 3 inch Nipomo man, who at the time was dressed in a shirt and tie, was driving approximately 15 miles over the speed limit.
Hurl pointed a gun at the alleged speeder, called for backup, began yelling commands, shot Ruiz in the back and then the side with a Taser gun, elbowed him in the head and clubbed him repeatedly, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by attorney James McKiernan.
Shortly after the altercation that left Ruiz covered in bruises, his mother Alma Gutierrez filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department alleging three deputies used unnecessary physical violence against four members of her family.
The department responded with a statement on Sept. 25 that said an investigation confirmed her complaint against deputy Hurl, but not against two other deputies who arrived later on the scene.
Shortly after three to four additional officers responded to Hurl’s request for backup, Ruiz’s girlfriend Ashley Rodriquez, his mother Alma Gutierrez and his brother Edward Gutierrez heard the commotion and stepped out of the home at 257 Vintage Street.
One of the deputies allegedly approached Rodriquez, a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy who had a tumor removed from her hip a few months earlier, and kneed her in the back causing her to fall to the ground and knocking her wig from her head. The same officer then charged Alma Gutierrez and kneed her in the crotch “causing her extensive vaginal bleeding.”
Another deputy slammed Edward Gutierrez into a patrol car before cuffing him and placing him on the ground.
Three of the four family alleged victims required medical treatment for their injuries.
McKiernan filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court last week against Hurl and the two other deputies who are listed as Deputy Paul and Deputy Voissem.
Nevertheless, McKiernan said he will attempt to have the case moved out of the county to avoid a conflict of interest.
“Anyway you look at the case, it’s a bad situation for everybody… my clients, local law enforcement and the county,” McKiernan said. “Everyone’s been hurt.
“The fairest solution for all, as I see it, is to file in United States District Court in Los Angeles which has jurisdiction over San Luis Obispo County. A federal judge and unbiased federal jurors, unconnected to San Luis Obispo, will be able to consider and resolve the matter.”