By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
The question posed by Ramirez, who was sitting on a wooden plank about midway up a nearby 8-foot tree, startled the cops. There was nothing nefarious about the makeshift treehouse. Years earlier, as little boys, the three friends placed the plank between branches and used it as a perch when they played.
According to the police records, the officers managed the "threatening" scene with textbook skill and without the use of any force. After Ramirez left the tree, officers handcuffed and eventually released the three men when searches found no drugs or weapons. But the police version wasn't truthful.
Witnesses saw the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Coleman tackle the 135-pound Ramirez, throw as many as six punches to his body and knee him in his rib cage at least twice, according to court records. The force punctured the teenager's lungs, required two hospitalizations, as well as surgery, and will forever prevent him from swimming or playing sports again.
In the aftermath, Coleman adamantly denied beating Ramirez, but he claimed he had justification to feel threatened. Sayre asked the officer during a deposition to explain. Coleman said Ramirez asserted he had constitutional rights from police abuse when he was placed in handcuffs.
According to a deposition transcript, Sayre asked the cop, "If a citizen says to you, 'I have rights,' you consider that aggressive behavior?"
Here's the answer that demonstrates how warped some Southern California cops have become: "An officer could take that as an aggression," a straight-faced Coleman replied.
Last month, the officer's assertions didn't impress a jury as credible. It sided with Sayre. Police could now pay more than $585,000 for the abuse.
For Ramirez—now a grocery clerk—Coleman's assault altered his life.
"I don't feel safe," he testified. "I don't think I will ever be able to trust the police anymore."
This column appeared in print as "Shoot First, Lie Later: In recent Southern California police-brutality cases, jurors decided the violent cops were also brazen liars."