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Fullerton Police Department sued for wrongful arrest

August 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A man who shot video of a friend's arrest and was later arrested has filed a federal lawsuit against the Fullerton Police Department, claiming a cover-up.

The Fullerton Police Department, already under scrutiny for the death of a homeless man seriously beaten while he was arrested, are now faced with a federal lawsuit filed by a man involved in a different incident.

Veth Mam recorded Fullerton police officers on his cellphone as they arrested his friend. Then an officer knocked the phone from his hand and grabbed Mam, 35. The incident happened in October.

"Pretty bad. Once he grabbed me down and just slammed me around, I was scared. I mean, what can I do?" said Mam at a news conference Friday.

Someone else continued recording with Mam's phone.

Mam's attorney accuses Officer Kenton Hampton of throwing Mam to the ground and arresting him for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.

"I was confused. I'm like What's going on here? Why am I being put in jail for something I didn't do?" said Mam.

Last month, a jury found Mam not guilty of the charges against him. His attorney, Garo Mardirossian, has filed a federal lawsuit against Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers, who recently took indefinite medical leave from the department, and officers Hampton, Frank Nguyen, Jonathan Miller, Daniel Solorio and Doe Reynoso. The allegations include violation of civil rights, false arrest and conspiracy.

"The officers sat down and wrote reports. They conspired to write reports that would jibe with one another's report, but does not jibe with the videotape," said Mardirossian.

Hampton's police report makes no mention of his contact with Mam.

The Fullerton Police Dept. says it can't comment on pending litigation.

This week, Acting Police Chief Kevin Hamilton ordered an internal investigation.

"We are looking more closely at it and upon initial assessment, Acting Chief Hamilton had made a statement earlier in the week that it appears we arrested the wrong man in that incident," said Fullerton Police Sergeant Andrew Goodrich.

Mam's attorney also represents Kelly Thomas's family. Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, was severely beaten while being arrested by Fullerton officers. in July. Thomas was taken off life support a few days after the incident.

Multiple investigations are under way in that case. Mam's attorney alleges Officer Hampton is one of the officers now on leave in the Thomas case.

Police have not named the officers in the Kelly Thomas case during the ongoing investigation.


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