Father of Four Claims Santa Monica Police Made “Rough” Arrest

A man filed a claim against Santa Monica on Friday accusing police of using excessive force during a recent arrest that was recorded on video by a bystander who heard the scuffle and became concerned.

In cellphone video shot April 21 Justin Palmer can be heard yelling at Santa Monica police who have him handcuffed on the ground at Virginia Avenue Park.

Palmer told NBC4 in an exclusive interview he'd gone to the park just before 11 p.m. to charge his electric vehicle because he's not allowed to charge at his apartment complex a few blocks away.

The father of four said police approached him and told him to leave, claiming the park was closed. He does admit he refused to show is ID to the officers during the confrontation.

Posted signs show the parking lot closes at 11, but the police call for service report shows the arrest was made at 10:56 p.m.

"I couldn't believe that this happened over me just trying to plug in my car," Palmer said. "I didn't know what was going on, I just felt he was just singling me out and asked for my ID."

Palmer, 36, said when the officer asked for his ID he demanded to know why they were approaching him, since other people were also in the park. He said the officer then threw him to the ground where he hit his head on the cement.

"He swept my legs and held my arm and threw me to the ground," he said. "I hit my head on the ground and blacked out."

Palmer said the police also used pepper spray on him and he suffered a concussion. He said he hasn't been able to return to his job as a pharmacy tech at Walgreens.

He said he was afraid to reach into his car to get his ID after seeing recent news reports about young men being killed by police.

"So, we are grateful for him to be alive," said his wife, Christina Gonzales-Palmer.

Palmer was fingerprinted, had his mug shot taken, and spent the night in jail, but his lawyer Justin Sanders said the next day the City Attorney sent him a letter telling him no criminal charges would be filed.

"That's how obvious it was my client didn't do anything wrong," Sanders said.

Palmer said he's overwhelmed by the support he's gotten from neighbors who saw the cellphone video posted on Facebook.

"It just seems like more people have supported me, more than I ever felt I would get," he said.

And he is hoping that he will send a message about excessive use of force by suiing the police over his arrest.

"It's just going too far. They are taking advantage of their position and taking advantage of their power," Palmer said.

Two days after the arrest Santa Monica police said in a news release that the officers restrained Palmer because he resisted arrest.

Sgt. Rudy Camarena, a Santa Monica Police Department spokesman, said the officers acted within policy.

Users of the park charging station said people do go to the park regularly after hours to charge their electric cars.

"There's not really... many other places to charge if you don't have a charger at home or a way to charge where you live or at work, this is the next thing," one said.

Former Santa Monica city councilman Kelly Olsen, who initiated the alternative fuel program, says he's in favor of having visitors in the park after dark.

"It's better to have people in the park because it makes the park safer," Olsen said. "People have been using this for years and years and there's never been any issue, and I don't think that the police should be enforcing this law, which I don't think has legislative authority anyway from the City Council."

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