*     *     *

After allegedly using his pepper-spray canister like a bottle of Febreze, Patel grabbed his radio and called for backup. Just moments later, Flores could hear sirens approaching. Several police cars pulled up to the complex. Officers in gang-unit uniforms began running onto the property. "Get the fuck down!" they yelled. "Get the fuck down!"

Flores tried to tell the officer nearest him that he was an off-duty CHP officer. "Then you know what I mean by 'Get the fuck down,'" the cop responded.

The Santos family, from left:  Javier, Amanda, Arthur, Gloria, Frank and Sonia in the alley behind their apartment, below, where the incident took place
John Gilhooley
The Santos family, from left: Javier, Amanda, Arthur, Gloria, Frank and Sonia in the alley behind their apartment, below, where the incident took place

Flores sat on his knees and watched as the officers ran past him. Then he heard a sound he likened to that of a freight train. "I later found out that they were slamming people up against the walls," he said.

When the police arrived, Sonia Santos was inside the apartment, helping rinse pepper spray out of her fiance's eyes. Hearing commotion outside, she walked into the courtyard. "There were police everywhere," she recalls. She heard a jingling noise behind her. "Somebody pushed me, and I flew. They pushed so hard my head hit the wall." The blow knocked her out. "When I woke up, I had two cops on me. They handcuffed me and put me against the wall."

Amanda was heading inside the apartment when she saw her sister Sonia coming out the door; a police officer immediately pushed Sonia from behind into a brick wall. Amanda walked up to the cop. "I got upset and said, 'Why did you push her?'" she says. "And the next thing I know, I get tackled from behind like a football player. There were three cops on top of me."

She recalls kicking and screaming in protest as the officers pinned her to the ground with her hands behind her back, placing handcuffs around her wrists. She saw her mother crying and being held back by her cousin Veronica. "That's when Patel came over and put his foot in my face," Amanda says. "I had all this gravel stuck to my face, and he was grinding my face down, and I told him to get off me because it was hurting, so finally he let go and grabs me by my hair and starts dragging me out of there."

Amanda continued to cry out in pain. She says the other two cops who had handcuffed her told her that if she didn't stop shouting, they would subdue her with a Taser. "And I said, 'Go for it. Do it! Do it!'" she says. "I was yelling at them because, at that point, I was mad. They just kept teasing me with it and laughing, threatening me and laughing at the same time." The officers placed her in a patrol car. Her spaghetti-strap shirt was falling off her shoulders, and Amanda says the officer refused to pull it back into place. "They kept telling me I was drunk, so I told them to give me a Breathalyzer test because I wasn't really drinking. And they said, 'Shut the fuck up,' and slammed the door in my face."

By then, police had also handcuffed Gloria Santos, Linda Flores and Javier Santos, Amanda's cousin, who had the misfortune to arrive at the party right as several gang-unit officers responded to Patel's call for assistance. He watched as police tackled Amanda and Sonia, he says, and he heard an officer order him to sit down but was too shocked to comply.

"For a couple of seconds, when they got hit, it was like the Saving Private Ryan thing, where I don't hear anything," Javier says. "It was the shock of seeing your family treated this way. So this cop is telling me to sit down, but I guess he asked me one time too many, and he grabbed me by my shirt, buttons are flying everywhere, and throws me to the ground." Javier says that while two officers handcuffed him, he felt a knee drop to his back. "It knocks the wind out of me," he says. "I was lying on the ground in cuffs when I got hit."

Meanwhile, Frank Santos was inside the apartment, washing pepper spray from his eyes. Police ran into the building looking for him. "There were four officers standing at the door," he recalls. "They said put your arms behind your back. I did, and they handcuffed me. They took me outside, and I kept hearing, 'The suspect has been apprehended.' I kept thinking, 'What suspect? What did I do? I didn't do nothing!'"

Gloria Santos heard the same radio chatter as she sat handcuffed in a patrol car. "It was like a nightmare," she recalls. "It was the most horrible experience of my life. It was a family barbecue, and all of a sudden, all of us are getting arrested because [Patel] didn't like the way we looked and we were in a poor side of Garden Grove. I mean, if you are Mexican and have tattoos, therefore they call in the gang unit and we all get arrested."

*     *     *

During the next several hours, the entire extended Santos family—with the exception of off-duty CHP officer Flores, described in Patel's written report as a non-participant in the incident—was hauled to the Garden Grove city jail and booked on numerous charges. Flores did not respond to interview requests for this story, but a police report claims Flores sought to distance himself from Santos and other family members who were being uncooperative. "I married his sister, not the family," Flores allegedly stated.

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