As deputies were closing in on a pursuit suspect after a violent, crash-filled chase across Southern California, Adrian Cruz sat at a stop light with his family. The suspect slammed into their car, and within seconds, Cruz alleges, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were slamming his head into the asphalt.
On Wednesday, Cruz and his family filed a lawsuit against L.A. County outlining a series of allegations, including false arrest, excessive force and violation of his state civil rights.
After the suspect crashed into Cruz’s car and then into a Hacienda Heights gas station at the tail end of a Nov. 9 chase that spanned Orange and Los Angeles counties, deputies opened fire, all while news helicopters broadcast the pursuit on live television.
When Cruz got out of his car to try to get his wife and son to safety, he alleges, deputies tackled him to the ground, beat him and put him into handcuffs for about 45 minutes while his family watched, confused and terrified.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not had a chance to review the complaint and does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesperson said in an email.
The hourlong, high-speed pursuit started in Fullerton about 4:45 p.m. when police officers spotted a black Honda Civic commit a traffic violation. When they tried to pull the driver over, he sped off with officers in pursuit.
Johnny Anchondo, 32, of Moreno Valley is accused of leading police and sheriff’s deputies on a wild chase, crashing into police cruisers and, at one time, running into a Whittier home, grabbing the keys to a pickup to continue the chase with the stolen car.
According to the lawsuit, Cruz was stopped at a red light in his car with his wife, Amanda Sainz, and their son at Hacienda Boulevard and Gale Avenue when Anchondo crashed into them.
After that first impact, Cruz said, he felt another crash as deputies rammed patrol cars into the suspect’s vehicle.
Deputies then began to fire into the suspect’s car.
According to the suit, Cruz, “promptly jumped out of his vehicle to assist his wife.”
It was then that deputies “suddenly tackled and violently began to punch [Cruz] in his head while simultaneously grabbing his head and smashing it to the ground,” according to the lawsuit.
Deputies allegedly held Cruz down while his wife and son ran to safety.
Cruz was then held in a squad car, handcuffed, for about 45 minutes, without deputies telling him why.
The suit alleges Cruz “was an innocent bystander, posed no immediate threat of death or seriously bodily injury, and violated no laws.”
Cruz was released, but the suit alleges deputies tried to cover up the incident by “providing false testimony” and “preparing or authorizing or approving false police reports.”
After the pursuit, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department told KCAL that Cruz was detained because he had refused to get out of the line of fire.
According to the suit, Cruz suffered several bruises and cuts to his face, head and body.