Salem reaches $95,000 settlement in lawsuit over 2018 arrest 

The city of Salem will pay $95,000 in a settlement with a Salem man who alleged in a lawsuit that police grabbed him as he was gambling in a north Salem Bar in 2018, tackled him to the ground and struck him. 

The city reached the settlement with Jose A. Carmona-Perez, 43, on Oct. 13, nearly four years after he sued the city and three of its police officers in Eugene U.S. District Court. 

Carmona-Perez alleged in his complaint that officers used excessive force by taking him to the ground and injuring him by striking his head, neck and back.

The Salem City Council on Monday, Nov. 13, will vote on authorizing City Manager Keith Stahley to make the payment.

City spokesman Trevor Smith declined to comment, citing “ongoing legal proceedings.”

Attorneys for Carmona-Perez did not provide comment Thursday afternoon.

Salem police Sgt. Michael Baskett learned on Feb. 27, 2018, that Carmona-Perez had been indicted on charges related to domestic violence, Baskett later wrote in a declaration.

When he found out the next day that Carmona-Perez was at the Dark Horse Bar and Grill on Northeast Broadway Street, he took two other officers, Officers Daniel Chase and Thomas Ammon, with him to arrest Carmona-Perez. 

According to Carmona-Perez’s lawsuit, he was playing video poker when the three officers surrounded him from behind. Baskett then ordered the other officers to grab Carmona-Perez and lift him from his chair “without warning or explanation,” the complaint said.

Carmona-Perez recalled one officer asking, “Are you Jose?” to which he responded that he was not. He said in his complaint that he identifies himself as Artemio or Jose Artemio, not Jose.

Baskett then ordered the other officers to take Carmona-Perez to the ground. While Baskett and Ammon sat on him and held him down with their knees, shins and body weight, Chase began striking his head and bouncing it off the floor, knocking him in and out of consciousness, according to the complaint.

Attorneys for the city responded to the allegations in a court filing, saying that when the officers identified themselves as police, told Carmona-Perez he was under arrest based on a warrant and attempted to handcuff him, he tried to pull away.

The city said in its response that despite officers telling Carmona-Perez to stop resisting, he refused to comply and they put him on the ground, where he tucked his hands beneath his body. 

“They repeatedly told (Carmona-Perez) to stop resisting arrest, but he refused to comply, kicking his legs, laying on top of his arms and moving his body,” the city wrote in its filing. Chase then used “heel-palm strikes” on Carmona-Perez. 

Carmona-Perez, who speaks Spanish and has “a limited understanding of English,” did not understand what the officers were yelling at him, he said in his complaint. He “was not in active flight nor in the midst of committing a serious felony.”

The complaint said Carmona-Perez suffered multiple lacerations, bruises on his body and head, “constant headaches, severe physical pain and emotional distress.”

Carmona-Perez’s suit alleged that his injuries were a result of “a pattern and practice of unconstitutional conduct” by the city of Salem, including failing to adequately train officers, ensure he received proper instructions in Spanish, enforce procedures for non-English speakers being arrested and discipline the officers after an internal review. 

Baskett and Ammon remained employed at the Salem Police Department as of Thursday. Chase resigned from the agency in September 2022 and was hired the following day at the Corvallis Police Department, according to records of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the state agency which licenses officers and investigates complaints of misconduct.

The day before his arrest, court records showed a Marion County grand jury indicted Carmona-Perez on charges of first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and fourth-degree assault for trying to run over a woman in a domestic violence incident.

Six months later, Carmona-Perez pleaded no contest to those charges and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

He was also charged with resisting arrest and possessing methamphetamine for the February 2018 incident over which he sued the city. The case was dismissed six months later after prosecutors filed a motion to drop the matter “in the interest of justice.”

Carmona-Perez’s settlement comes five months after the city agreed to pay $25,000 to Clifford Eiffler-Rodriguez, a Salem man who alleged in a lawsuit that police shot him with crowd control munitions before tackling and arresting him. That occurred during a 2021 protest outside Planned Parenthood near the North Lancaster neighborhood.

Three months before that settlement, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Eleaqia McCrae, protester who Salem police shot with rubber bullets at a 2020 protest over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

A jury in that case had previously found that a Salem police officer used excessive force against the protester while trying to disrupt a downtown demonstration. But the judge found the officer was protected from the lawsuit because the protester suing him didn’t prove that other officers have historically been found liable for the same conduct, a legal principle known as qualified immunity.

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

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.