A Los Angeles County couple is suing the Anaheim Police Department, its police chief and several other high-ranking officers for alleged false arrest, excessive force and torture in 2012.
Rafael Garcia Miranda and his wife Olga Martha Garcia claim in their Sept. 24 lawsuit that Police Chief John Welter, then-Assistant Chief Craig Hunter, Sergeant Daron Wyatt, media spokesman Bob Dunn and an incompletely named officer Hernandez tried to frame Miranda in the cold case 1998 killing of a state prison guard on a 91 Freeway off-ramp after they already knew the identity of the real killers.
After the couple was stopped in their vehicle at gunpoint by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputies in Feb. 2012 and Miranda was transported to the Anaheim jail, the plaintiff says he was "tortured, beaten, punched, kicked, struck, pushed, tormented, intimidated" and "deprived of sleep, food, water and access to reasonable accommodations, including but not limited to, the use of a restroom by defendants."
The 13-page lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court also claims that Anaheim police officers threatened Miranda's family "with physical violence" and "was told his children would be removed from his home by defendants and placed into protective custody."
"Moreover," the lawsuit alleges, "Miranda was repeatedly and continually referred to as a 'cop killer' by defendants," who eventually transferred him to the Orange County Jail, where the plaintiff claims he was place alone in a cell and beaten again.
According to Mark W. Eisenberg and Jerry N. Gans, Miranda's Irvine-based lawyers, their innocent client was kept in custody from Feb. 2, 2012, to May 2, 2012, and all charges were dropped two months later.
Eisenberg and Gans assert that Wyatt and Hernandez engaged in a brutal, multi-day interrogation of Miranda even though Nuzzio Begaren "had already confessed to hiring Jose Luis Sandoval to kill his wife in a murder-for-hire scheme."
The complaint further alleges, "Jose Luis Sandoval had also confessed to his role in the murder of Elizabeth Begaren as the hired shooter. As no time had Begaren or Sandoval implicated Miranda in the killing or events related to planning the killing . . . When defendants Wyatt and Hernandez failed to obtain the confession they were seeking from Miranda, they began torturing him by beating, punching, striking, pushing, choking, tormenting and intimidating him. To this end, Miranda was repeatedly hit and struck in the face and body and kicked in the legs while being called a 'cop killer' by them. While chained to the table in the interrogation room, Miranda was pushed over in the chair in which he was seated, repeatedly choked and held with his face/head pressed against the table with one or more of the defendants weight upon him; this all the while being told his family would face consequences if he did not confess, including, but not limited to, their suffering physical harm and the removal of his children by Child Protective Services."
On Jan. 17, 1998, the 40-year-old employee at Lancaster State Prison was shot twice in head while in her car with her husband and his 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The husband claimed four gang members shot his wife after seeing her badge and stole $4,700 in cash before fleeing.
Miranda's lawsuit claims "Anaheim detectives were immediately suspicious of Mr. Begaren's story, especially after learning the couple had been recently married and the Mr. Begaren had taken out a $1 million life insurance policy on his new bride."
At the time the case was dismissed against Miranda--a Cudahy resident, prosecutor Larry Yellin cited exculpatory evidence.
The Orange County District Attorney's office won a murder case against the guard's husband earlier this month. Begaren is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4.
Sandoval, who pleaded not guilty, is free from custody on bail and awaiting trial.
Guillermo Espinoza, who is alleged shooter in the case, is listed as a fugitive, according to court records.
A request for a response to the lawsuit by Anaheim PD officials has not yet been granted.
I know from covering criminal trials over the years that law enforcement officials consider Det. Wyatt one of Orange County's best, most accomplished homicide investigators.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Miranda's civil complaint has been assigned to Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz.
In January, Orange County Register reporter Tony Saavedra revealed that Miranda had filed a $30 million, pre-lawsuit claim notice against Anaheim and the county.