Richard Brown beat criminal charges last October related to his arrest while protesting the Anaheim Police Department on July 29, 2012. Brown and his girlfriend Kristine Hedley are now suing officers for civil rights violations alleging excessive force and false arrest. In a complaint filed two years to the date after the protest, at least two of the Anaheim cops named as defendants are no strangers to allegations of misconduct.
Brown and Hedley held signs outside the Anaheim police department. Roughly 400 demonstrators turned out that day. Police responded with a heavily militarized presence. The two began walking up Broadway en route to a vigil for Manuel Angel Diaz on Anna Drive. The 25-year-old was shot and killed by Anaheim police earlier that month sparking days of unrest.
An equestrian unit followed Brown and Hedley. They were with a group of 50 to 60 protesters. The lawsuit alleges that Anaheim officer Richard Olmedo "suddenly turned his horse and sliced into the peaceful group of pedestrians on the sidewalk." Brown asked how long he'd be blocked off for. Olmedo raised his finger to his lips to shush him.
"Olmedo falsely claimed Mr. Brown touched his horse's head and bridle," the complaint continues. He alerted officer Kasey Geary of the supposed offense. An arrest team of seven cops, including Phillip Vargas, went into action when Brown and his girlfriend reached the intersection of Broadway and Anaheim Boulevard.
Brown posed with a Mickey Mouse sign reading "Hey Kids! Check out my military police," before police moved in. The lawsuit claims officers Vargas and Chad Meyer threw him against a building wall. Another officer is alleged to have punched him several times before Brown was cuffed. Vargas is also alleged to have slammed Hedley to the ground.
Brown beat criminal charges for obstructing a police horse. Anaheim's City Attorney's office declined to press charges against Hedley.
Olmedo and Vargas have been named in brutality claims and lawsuits before. In an October 2, 2009 incident, a claim alleged Olmedo used excessive force and falsified a police report. Responding to the call, Olmedo and his partner arrived near the mobile home park residency of James Robert Reade. Olmedo struck the man when he opened his patrol car door and later tackled him to the ground.
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In a police report, Olmedo wrote that Reade (Coincidentally a Weekly Scariest People 2012 Honoree) had "extremely dilated" pupils and dry cracked lips during an encounter outside his mobile park home. Officers feared a drugged up Reade posed a threat and arrested him. There was only one problem. The OC Crime Lab drug tests came back clean. The city settled the claim a year later for $50,000.
Phillip Vargas is one of five officers named in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit against the department. Caesar Cruz, 35-years-old, was killed in a hailstorm of bullets outside a Wal-Mart in Anaheim on December 11, 2009. Vargas is noted as one of the officers involved in the fatal shooting.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2