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Fontana settled a lawsuit April 30 that accused their police of driving a man to attempt suicide, falsely telling him his father died, accusing him of the non-existent murder and sending his dog to be euthanized.

His attorney says they coerced a false confession of patricide.

“In my 40 years of suing the police I have never seen that level of deliberate cruelty by the police,” said Thomas Perez’s attorney, Jerry Steering, on his website.

“After what I saw on the video of what they did to him, I now know that the police can get (anyone) to confess to killing Abe Lincoln,” Steering said.

The Fontana Police Department issued a press release saying that they had evidence Perez’ dad had been murdered. A cadaver K-9 unit indicated that there were human remains in the evidence, and broken furniture indicated a violent struggle, they said. 

“The settlement in this case was a business decision which was recommended by a federal court mediator to save the City further time, effort, and expense. Again, the parties’ written settlement agreement contains no admission of wrongdoing by anyone, and Mr. Perez specifically agreed to settlement on these terms,” their press release said.

According to his complaint, Perez’ father left their shared house on Aug. 7, 2018, to spend two nights with a romantic partner in Los Angeles and then to visit Perez’ sister in Northern California. He had not told his son of his plans. 

When he couldn’t find his father, Perez called the police and told them he thought his father was in danger because of his age and limited English skills. They instead accused Perez of killing his father.

During an interrogation Aug. 8, 2018, Fontana police officers told Perez they had found his father’s dead body, the complaint said. Steering claimed the interview took 17 hours.

The complaint says that Perez was driven twice to an undeveloped dirt lot on the outskirts of Fontana, where he was told to—but did not—exit the police car. The Fontana Police Department said that Perez was freed multiple times, taken to a coffee shop and driven to multiple locations. 

They told him, “your father is dead,” and “he has a toe tag on him,” according to the complaint. They threatened that Perez would “never see the light of day again.”

They denied him a lawyer and his medications for depression, asthma and high blood pressure. 

They brought Perez’ Labrador retriever, Margosha, into the police station, told him to say goodbye to her, then unsuccessfully sent Margosha to be euthanized by falsely classifying her as a stray dog, the complaint said. 

“Okay your dog’s gone now, forget about it,” the officers told him, according to the complaint. Margosha was not euthanized because she was chipped. After Perez picked Margosha up, he had to pay $12,000 in medical bills due to an injury in her right hind leg, the complaint said.

During a break in the interrogation, Perez attempted suicide by hanging. 

On Aug. 9, 2018, two days after his father had left, Perez was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. He spent four days there on a suicide hold.

That same day, Perez received a call from his father. His father had a flight booked from Los Angeles to Oakland to visit Perez’ sister. Fontana police had taken him into custody before he boarded the airplane with the help of airport police. The police did not tell Perez that his father was alive, and instructed the hospital staff to not allow him to speak with anyone, according to Steering.

Perez was released from Arrowhead Medical on Aug. 13, 2018. 

The complaint brought 11 causes of action:

  1. Unreasonable seizure of person
  2. Use of unreasonable/excessive force on person
  3. Unreasonable search and seizure of real property
  4. Denial of substantive due process– outrageous government misconduct
  5. Unreasonable seizure of property
  6. Unreasonable search of property
  7. Retaliation for protected speech
  8. Violation of the Bane Act
  9. False arrest/false imprisonment
  10. Battery
  11. Intentional infliction of emotional distress

Case No. 5:19-cv-01623

Brenton Hands and Jerry Steering of the Law Office of Jerry Steering represented Perez.

S. Frank Harrell, Tamara Heathcote, Debra Cahir, Jonathan Arjonilla, Jonathan Bond, Kyle Schiffman and Melissa Culp of Orange’s Lynberg & Watkins represented Fontana and its police officers.

Read the complaint here.

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