Officer Lerry Esparza
A November traffic stop led to his violent beating, arrest and a broken leg, an Altadena man has filed a claim for damages against the city of Pasadena, its police department and chief, and officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan.
Christopher Ballew’s Nov. 9 arrest at an Altadena gas station was captured on video by a bystander and surfaced on social media this month, creating a stir and leading to denunciations from civil rights advocates.
“I was beaten that day as if I was a runaway slave,” Ballew, 21, an assistant director at a marketing firm, said at a Wednesday news conference that was also attended by his parents and sister.
Pasadena public information officer William Boyer said police officers Lerry Esparza and officer Zachary Lujan stopped Ballew, who is black, because of his car’s darkly tinted windows and missing front license plate.
After community pressure, city officials last week released six dash-cam and body-camera videos that provide graphic details of the encounter.
After stopping his white Mercedes at a gas pump, Ballew walks towards the station’s mini-market. One of the officers stops Ballew, grabs his arm and leads him back to the car.
“You better stop acting like a dummy, dude,” the other officer yells. Both officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan spread Ballew’s feet apart, forcing him into a kneeling position.
Ballew begins repeatedly asking for their commanding officer as one of his wrists is placed in handcuffs. After being hit with an officer’s baton, Ballew grabs and pulls the baton and a scuffle ensues.
The two officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan force Ballew to the ground and continue to beat him with fists and the baton, delivering blows to his back and leg.
Other Pasadena police officers arrived on scene, and Ballew was eventually taken to the emergency room. He was later booked on suspicion of assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon.
After spending about 36 hours in custody, he was released on $50,000 bail. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to press charges against Ballew, citing insufficient evidence.
Ballew insists that he tried to comply with the officers’ commands.
“The only reason why I grabbed the baton was because he already hit me with the baton,” Ballew said. “When I watch this video, the only thing that I could think of is how thankful I am to still be here. There was a point where the officer pointed his gun at me.”
Ballew’s attorney, John Burton, said the confrontation could easily have turned fatal. Burton said one of the objectives of the claim is to determine why the traffic stop intensified so quickly.
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Ballew alleges officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan violated his civil rights by escalating a traffic stop into what he called a beating. Police have said Ballew resisted arrest and initially attempted to get him charged with assault on an officer.
“This was unprovoked, nearly deadly violence,” said John Burton, Ballew’s attorney.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to pursue charges against Ballew.
According to police, officers Lerry Esparza and officer Zachary Lujan stopped Ballew because his car did not have a front license plate and had illegally tinted windows.
A bystander’s video of the incident on social media sparked outrage and led to the release of additional footage from the officers’ body and dash cameras. At the time, City Manager Steve Mermell said he would reach out to the family, but family members now say they never heard from him. William Boyer, Pasadena spokesman, said Mermell left a message and never heard back.
A video captures police beating that left a man with a broken leg. He’s filed a claim against them
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Body-worn camera footage of Ballew incident released by city
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Man Has Leg Broken After Incident With Pasadena Police | Christopher Ballew | Dash Cam | 20171109
Man Has Leg Broken After Incident With Pasadena Police | Christopher Ballew | Body Cam | 20171109
Young black man says he ‘was beaten like a slave’ during arrest