Lawsuit alleges Salem officer used excessive force during unnecessary arrest

(Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A Salem man is suing the city and one of its police officers, alleging the officer used excessive force against him during an unnecessary arrest last fall.

Christopher Garza, 47, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the city and Salem Police Department officer David Baker in Portland U.S. District Court.

Garza, who is Native American, alleges in the lawsuit he was working on a car with two Hispanic men at a Salem tire shop on Sept. 17, 2021 when Baker pulled into the parking lot, shoved him onto the hood of his police car, handcuffed him and threw him in the car.

State court records showed no charges filed against Garza.

“To me, this is clear racial profiling,” Jason Kafoury, an attorney representing Garza in the lawsuit, told Salem Reporter. “There was no reason to confront these gentlemen, and we look forward to reviewing Baker’s other stops to see if there is a pattern and practice of how he treats Salem citizens.”

Baker has been a Salem police officer since 2013.

Angela Hedrick, Salem police spokeswoman, said in an email that the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Kafoury said Garza lived in an RV adjacent to OK Tire of Salem at 1820 12th St. S.E.

According to the complaint, Baker after pulling into the parking lot accused Garza of stealing the car, “grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, shoved him onto the hood of the police car, handcuffed him very tightly, and roughly threw him into the police car,” the complaint said.

As a result, Garza alleges he suffered injuries to his shoulders with one requiring surgery, as well as injuries to his neck, chest, wrists and left hand.

The complaint said he also will continue to “suffer from pain, discomfort, disability, interference with ordinary activities, embarrassment, frustration, anger, humiliation, a sense of personal violation, racial stigmatization, and increased vulnerability.”

Garza said in the lawsuit he has incurred around $20,000 in medical bills and is still treating injuries from the incident.

Kafoury said Garza was never taken to jail. “They just let him go. I mean, he was living there,” Kafoury said. “The whole case is just so ridiculous.”

The suit alleges Baker stopped, detained and used excessive force against Garza illegally and without probable cause, meaning substantial reason to believe someone more likely than not committed a criminal offense.

He is seeking compensation for damages to be determined by a jury trial, the complaint said.

A video provided by Garza’s lawyers and published Tuesday by The Oregonian shows Garza’s arrest.  

This story was updated Wednesday afternoon after Salem police spokeswoman Angela Hedrick said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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