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Priest sues Pomona Police for intimidation

August 30, 2010 10:25:54 PM PDT
A local Catholic priest is spearheading a second civil lawsuit targeting the Pomona Police Dept. The suit claims plainclothes officers tried to intimidate and silence community members who were questioning police tactics.An angry and heated confrontation occurred as community members squared off against plainclothes police in Pomona. Home video of the emotional meeting were posted online by attendees.

"The police started screaming. They started yelling," said Angela Sombrano, Pomona Habla Community Coalition. "They started telling us to get a license, to get insurance, in an extremely aggressive manner."

Community activists say the officers violated civil rights and filed two federal lawsuits. The latest was filed by a local Catholic priest.

"I think that the police officers that were there present had the right to be present, but they did not have the right to go ahead and intimidate those that had gathered together," said the plaintiff, Father Patricio Guillen.

Organizers say nearly 200 residents and community leaders had gathered at the Pomona church in August 2008 to talk about the police department's use of DUI checkpoints. They feel that the immigrant community is being unfairly targeted.

Organizers say many people feared the meeting would turn violent after the plainclothes police officers began to speak out.

Eyewitness News tried to reach the city for comment on the lawsuits, but had not received a response.

The plaintiff's attorney says that the city is fighting the lawsuits, saying that the officers were simply expressing their First Amendment rights.

"You don't have a First Amendment right to disrupt the meeting and threaten people and do all these things that are part and parcel of the Pomona Police Department," said Francisco Suarez, Guillen's attorney.

Guillen said all they want is justice in court and out on the streets.


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