Family Claims Police Cover-Up After Violent Altercation - NBC Southern California

Family Claims Police Cover-Up After Violent Altercation

Video presented to the district attorney's office after the September 2015 incident at the LA County Fair was edited, a planned lawsuit alleges.

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    Family Claims Video Shows Violent Police Altercation

    A family is preparing to sue the Pomona Police Department, accusing the agency of covering up an assault of their teenage son by officers that ended what began as a family outing to the LA County Fair last summer. Colleen Williams reports for the NBC4 News at 11 on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. (Published Thursday, May 19, 2016)

    A family is preparing to sue the Pomona Police Department, accusing the agency of covering up an assault of their teenage son by officers that ended what began as a family outing to the LA County Fair last summer.

    In video recorded by a bystander, then-16-year-old Christian Aguilar is seen being punched and wrestled to the ground. According to police reports, the altercation happened after Aguilar ignored police commands and became aggressive with officers.

    "I was yelling 'I am 16 years old. I am a minor.' I remember I was scared," Christian said. "I didn't know if they we're going to pull something out."

    In September 2015, the Aguilar family went to the fairgrounds in Pomona.

    Cellphone Video Prior to Pomona Altercation

    [LA] Cellphone Video Prior to Pomona Altercation
    Cellphone video recorded by Christian Aguilar show the moments before he was involved in a violent altercation with Pomona police at the LA County Fair in 2015.
    (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016)

    "The LA County Fair is coming, you go look at the animals," Christian's father, Ignacio Aguilar, recalled. "You take your kids to the petting zoo, you know. It's family time."

    That evening, police approached Ignacio, and detained him for suspicion of public intoxication. Christian pulled out his cellphone and began recording the arrest.

    He followed as police escorted his father off the fairgrounds, still recording. An officer can be heard asking him to stop, Christian keeps walking and he responds that he is leaving the fair.

    Bystander Recording of Pomona Altercation

    [LA] Bystander Recording of Pomona Altercation
    A bystander recorded the September 2015 altercation between Pomona police officers and 16-year-old Christian Aguilar.
    (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016)

    A few seconds later, an officer grabbed Christian, he said.

    "I walked to the wall with him and that's when it escalated," he said.

    A video recorded by another fairgoer, unrelated to the Aguilars, shows part of the confrontation between Christian and the officers.

    Cellphone Video of Altercation Presented to District Attorney

    [LA] Cellphone Video of Altercation Presented to District Attorney
    This version of a bystander's cellphone video was presented to the District Attorney's office in connection with the charges against Christian Aguilar. Several frames at the beginning of the original video appear to have been edited out.
    (Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016)

    The officer spins him around and punches him in the lower jaw. He then pushes him and punches him again. Two more officers rush in and surround Christian. A fourth officer races in and hits him twice in the legs with a baton, sending him falling to the ground.

    Others also rushed in, one appearing to ready a Taser that he does not deploy.

    "You see an officer running like he's going to hit a grand slam. And he a takes a swing and swoops down, and the next thing you know, you just hear the impact -- a ball hitting a bat going out of the field," Ignacio Aguilar said.

    Christian was arrested and charged him with obstruction and resisting arrest. He will face a Pomona courthouse judge on those charges this Friday. Ignacio Aguilar will be in court Thursday to answer charges related to the public intoxication accusation.

    The man who shot the video of Christian's arrest was also detained for being drunk in public minutes after it was recorded. He was released the next morning without being charged, but he said police kept his phone as evidence for two days.

    Neither Ignacio nor the man who recorded Christian's arrest were given breathalyzers. The second man, who has asked not to be identified, said he was not given a field sobriety test either.

    Christian insists that he did not resist or assault the officers.

    Attorney David Gammill of law firm Geragos & Geragos represents the Aguilars.

    "There is no explanation for it. It's shameful behavior from a police force," he said.

    The family has notified the Pomona Police Department of their intention to file a civil lawsuit by filing a claim with the city of Pomona, alleging "unprovoked police brutality"and a "gang-style beating."

    "If they are not in blue police uniforms, if they were wearing baggy pants and all in red T-shirts with bandanas, no one would blink an eye at the phrase gang-style beating. But because they are the boys in blue, many people, and the DA's office, is willing to give them a pass," Gammill said.

    In police reports reviewed by NBC4, officers contend Christian was "following too close" and "within arms reach." One officer stated that it appeared Christian was trying to "rescue" his dad from custody or possibly assault an officer.

    "The video shows that's absolutely not what happened," Gammill countered.

    There are nearly identical accounts from three different Pomona officers who reported that Christian "swung" at the arresting officer.

    Gammill said the multiple accounts are wrong.

    "You hit play. It's all on the video. You just hit play," he said.

    The Aguilar's claim includes an accusation that Pomona police tampered with the evidence as part of an "intricate cover up."

    "It's missing the first second and that makes all the difference in the world," Gammill said. He said the very first frames of video contradict police accounts that Christian was the aggressor.

    "You see Christian even after being whipped around by a police officer, he puts his hands down by his side and he stands still."

    The Pomona Police Department declined a request for an on-camera interview, but confirmed an Internal Affairs investigation is on-going.

    Christian's parents said the incident has made a difference to their son's personality.

    "My son is not the same kid and it's heartbreaking," said Eraine Aguilar, near tears.

    They said he's more anxious now and doesn't like to be far away from home.

    "Because the things that used to protect me I feel aren't there to protect me," Christian said.

    Ignacio Aguilar said he fears for his family, and is afraid of retaliation from police.

    "I'm just grateful to god that my son is still alive," he said, after seeing the video.

    Eraine Aguilar said she's "sickened" and "ashamed," by watching her son be injured by the very community she has long had faith in and is actually a part of.

    "I've been in law enforcement since 2001. It's a career I'm proud of. I work with great great officers, and to know that there's a small percentage of them that give them all a bad name."

    Christian said he once thought he might follow her into a career in law enforcement.

    "I used to think about being a cop and now after this, I don't even want to look at cops."

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