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ACLU files lawsuit against Delano Police Department over use of force incident involving teen

Posted at 4:32 PM, May 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-18 21:11:49-04

FRESNO, Calif. — The American Civil Liberties Union confirmed it has filed a lawsuit against the City of Delano and three Delano Police officers alleging officers used excessive force against a 17-year-old Delano High School student in April 2019.

According to the lawsuit, on April 11, 2019 Pablo Simental Jr., 17 at the time, was walking with three friends towards the Wonderful College Prep Academy to obtain permission slips for Pablo and another Delano High student to attend WCPA’s prom. The suit said the four students began crossing the street at an unmarked crossing when a patrol vehicle approached them, "coming to a stop just short of where the students were walking, almost hitting them."

At this time, one of the students began filming the incident. According to the lawsuit, Simental watched from the curb as two DPD officers, "lay on top of and handcuff his two friends," while another officer approached the student filming the incident and "slapped" the phone out the student's hand. According to the suit, Pablo asked the officers why they were being arrested before he was allegedly charged by an officer from 20-feet-away.

"Pablo directed this question to the officers while backing away, standing with his arms to his sides and his palms facing upwards. He was not armed, posing any threat nor making any threatening gestures towards the officers or anyone else," the suit said.

According to the suit, Simental was then tackled to the ground and handcuffed. The suit alleges force was used while handcuffing Simental resulting in injuries including scrapes and cuts on his forearms, markings on his wrists from the tight handcuffs, headaches, and severe pain that persisted for days. The suit said Simental and the other students remained handcuffed for several hours, including after Simental's transfer to the Kern County Juvenile Hall in Bakersfield.

The lawsuit states that officers told Simental's mother he was was detained for purportedly jaywalking. According to the suit, no criminal charges were ever filed against Simental.

The suit alleges Simental received a letter from DPD stating a formal investigation had been completed and exonerated the officers involved.

23ABC has reached out to the City of Delano for a comment and is waiting to hear back.

The lawsuit alleges this was a situation of false arrest and imprisonment, use of excessive force and retaliation for exercising First Amendment rights. The ACLU is asking for a trial by jury and that Simental be awarded compensatory and punitive damages.