Lawyer: Client nearly blinded by police in beating

AP News
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Posted: Aug 25, 2011 9:54 PM
Lawyer: Client nearly blinded by police in beating

Police beat a man so violently in a Los Angeles suburb that he was left nearly blind while one officer briefly pointed a gun or Taser at his 3-year-old nephew, an attorney said Thursday.

Attorney Brad Gage said about six El Monte officers pummeled his client Cornelio David Chavez for at least 10 minutes after arriving at the home of his mother to arrest Chavez on outstanding warrants.

"The beating was so loud that neighbors outside could hear the blows being inflicted and hear the cries for help," Gage said. "Virtually every bone in his face was broken."

Chavez, 35, was initially blinded and remains 85 percent sightless, Gage said.

El Monte police defended the officers' actions in a statement, saying that Chavez appeared to be under the influence of drugs when he sprung from a closet and attacked police who were looking for him.

"During the violent struggle, Chavez is believed to have been struck in the head when one of the officers felt the suspect reaching for his service issued weapon," the police department said.

Prosecutors filed two counts of felony resisting arrest, two counts of misdemeanor assault on a police officer and other charges against Chavez in connection with the incident, police said.

El Monte is about 15 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Gage also claims an officer pointed a handgun or a Taser at Chavez's young nephew, who ran into a bedroom where the arrest was taking place and tried to intervene.

"As he is in the process of pointing it at the kid, another officer stopped him," Gage said.

Gage has filed a claim against the police department. If it's rejected, he plans to file a lawsuit.

The department is conducting an investigation into allegations of excessive use of force, police said. The officers involved in the incident remain on full duty.

Chavez has a criminal history that includes a conviction for possession of burglary tools. He is facing several charges stemming from the June 24 arrest, including battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

Police said Chavez was on probation with several active warrants when they went to apprehend him at the request of county probation officials.

The case comes as investigators continue to probe allegations against another Southern California police department.

Several investigations are ongoing into the July 5 arrest of homeless Fullerton resident Kelly Thomas, who died after a violent confrontation with officers.

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Watkins can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/thomaswatkins