[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS : Julius Bilbrew was 16 in 2009 when he was tasered sitting on a park-bench with his girl-friend. The City of Hawthorne has just agreed to a $99,000 settlement The same police officer was accused of similar civil-rights violations for using a Taser gun on a 12-year-old autistic teenager in September 2008, for which Hawthorne paid out 1 $300,000 settlement.]]
Daily Breeze, by Sandy Mazza,
A Hawthorne High school student who was shot twice with a stun gun while being taken into custody won $99,000 from the city of Hawthorne this week to settle his lawsuit alleging civil-rights violations by Hawthorne police officers.
The incident took place Oct. 9, 2009, while Julius Bilbrew, who was 16 at the time, and his girlfriend were sitting on a bench at a bus stop at 3:30 p.m. on Inglewood Avenue at 118th Street. Two Hawthorne officers walked up to them and handcuffed the girl. When Bilbrew complained, he was shot with a Taser stun gun.
“Without provocation or warning, and without justification, (the officer) discharged his Taser upon (Bilbrew) causing the electrodes to be attached to his chest,” the lawsuit states. “After being violently knocked off his feet, and while writhing on the ground and incapacitated as a result of the electric shock,” the officer gave him a second electric shock.
Bilbrew was taken to jail and later charged with resisting, obstructing and delaying arrest, but those accusations were dropped in juvenile court in 2010, according to Bilbrew’s lawyer, Downey-based Ricardo Perez. In 2011, Bilbrew filed the lawsuit against the city and the two men involved in his arrest — Officer Vincent Arias and Sgt. Ti Goetz. Bilbrew alleged his civil rights were violated because Arias used “excessive force and unreasonable seizure” against him, according to the court complaint.
Arias was accused of similar civil-rights violations for using a Taser gun on a 12-year-old autistic teenager in September 2008 at Hawthorne Middle School. In that case, he used a Taser to subdue the boy, who was reportedly upset and acting out by kicking and spitting. The city later settled for $300,000 with the boy’s family, who sued for personal injury, false arrest, excessive force and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
At the time of Bilbrew’s arrest, he was a rising star on the Inglewood Sentinels basketball team.
“This was his first contact with law enforcement, and he hasn’t had any contact with law enforcement since,” Perez said. “He’s a low-key guy who was focused on his basketball game. There were scouts who would come out to see him.”
Bilbrew has since graduated and is considering college, Perez said, adding that he’s glad to have the lawsuit behind him.
The city denied the allegations of civil-rights violations in its answer to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, citing probable cause for the arrest.
The city sought to have the case dismissed and to have its attorney’s fees recovered from the plaintiff.
But on Tuesday, the City Council voted 5-0 to settle the case for $99,000.
City Attorney Russ Miyahira explained that the settlement was a financial decision, not an admission of guilt.
“The city believed that the detention and subsequent use of the Taser was justified,” Miyahira said. “But the legal costs of expert retention, attorneys and other court costs and in light of the attorney’s fees provision in these types of civil rights cases, it was felt that this was a prudent risk management decision to settle this matter.”
Perez said Bilbrew was traumatized by the arrest.
“No amount of money is going to fully compensate him for what he went through,” Perez said. “It was his first contact with police, and it was a scary one. He’s a black juvenile and he stayed out of trouble. His mind was in sports, and this was a very frightening encounter.”