Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Atlanta Officers Settled

By KATE BRUMBACK | May 20, 2011

A federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that two Cobb County police officers broke a man’s nose during an arrest has been settled, according to court records.

The case was dismissed Tuesday after a notice of settlement was filed May 6. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which sued in August on behalf of Angel Francisco Castro Torres, said it was not authorized to release the amount of the settlement.

“No amount of money can ever make up for the blatant violations of our client’s constitutional and civil rights or the injuries he suffered,” Mary Bauer, the center’s legal director, said in a statement Wednesday. “But we hope this settlement sends a clear message that these types of abuses won’t be tolerated.”

Lawyers for the two officers did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment.

The lawsuit said officers Jeremiah M. Lignitz and Brian J. Walraven beat him after they stopped him as he was riding his bike in March 2010. In a police report filed that day, the officers said Castro resisted arrest, tried to run away and attempted to grab one of the officer’s stun guns.

At the time of his arrest, Castro was charged with two misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer, one for trying to run away and the other for trying to grab the stun gun, court documents showed. The charges were dismissed because the officers, who were subpoenaed, did not appear before the judge, according to the documents.

Southern Poverty Law Center lawyer Sam Brooke said he believes it was a case of racial profiling, and that he believes Castro was stopped because he was Latino.

In the lawsuit, Castro said he was riding his bike and passed in front of the officers’ car, which was waiting at a red light on an intersecting road. The officers turned to follow Castro and then stopped him, according to the lawsuit.

The officers asked for his identification, questioned his immigration status and arrested him, the lawsuit said. During the arrest, Castro said the officers assaulted him, breaking bones in his nose and left eye socket.

Castro said in the lawsuit that he did not resist arrest and complied with the officers’ demands.

Brooke declined to discuss Castro’s immigration status but said his client is still in the country.

The officers wrote in the incident report that they stopped Castro because he failed to yield to traffic and almost hit their patrol car. The officers said Castro gave his name when asked but repeatedly refused to give them his date of birth, which they needed to identify him.

Castro was treated by EMS workers at the scene and then taken to jail, the officers said in the report.

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