San Diego

Four Men File Suit Against MTS Code Compliance Officer for Excessive Force

Four men filed a lawsuit in federal court against the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, accusing a code compliance officer of assault on separate occasions.

“I was scared for my life,” said Prather Johnson. “I thought I was going to actually die.”

Johnson said he was drinking his coffee while waiting for the trolley at the Euclid Avenue station on the morning of April 26.

The San Diego man said two MTS code compliance officers, identified as “Rivas” and “Mora” in the lawsuit, approached him and asked to see his trolley pass.

Johnson said he showed the officers his pass, but they still told him to leave the trolley station anyway.

Johnson then walked off MTS property onto a ramp to the adjacent parking lot for the nearby Jacobs Center, he told NBC 7.

However, the officers asked him once again for his trolley pass even though he was off MTS property, according to Johnson. He said he showed them once again, but they told him to keep moving.

“I proceeded to walk off right here, and he [Rivas] grabbed me right here like this and just slammed me right here,” Johnson said pointing to a metal railing.

Johnson said he hit his head on the railing.

“Once he hit his head on that rail, I ran from here to there,” said Chula Vista Private Security Captain Clarence Courtney.

Courtney said he has patrolled the neighboring mall and parking lot for two years. He said he saw the MTS code compliance officers throw Johnson down.

“When I was on the ground I heard somebody say, ‘Hey, this is our property. You need to get off,’” said Johnson. “I looked up, and that’s when I see him trying to intervene.”

“They were trying to choke hold him, and so I intervened again, and I was like, ‘Hey, look, you’re not going to do this on my property. I won’t allow that on my property,’” said Courtney. “I kind of got in between them and they grabbed me and kind of threw me around.”

“‘You’ll be arrested.’ And I told them, ‘You don’t have the power to arrest me on my property,’” Courtney told NBC 7.

Courtney said the MTS officers had no jurisdiction on the property he was hired to guard.

“These situations are outrageous,” said attorney Doug Gilliland.

Gilliland filed the lawsuit on behalf of Johnson, Courtney, and two other men who claim Rivas and Mora assaulted them at trolley stations in similar fashions.

The lawsuit obtained by NBC 7 said Rivas asked Keith Stewart to leave the Euclid Avenue trolley station on February 17, 2018, even though Stewart said he had a trolley pass.

The lawsuit said Stewart walked off the property onto the neighboring property. It said Rivas grabbed Stewart and took him to the ground.

The lawsuit said a colostomy bag worn by Stewart ruptured when he was thrown to the ground.

Felipe Vedoy encountered Rivas and Mora at the Grossmont Trolley Station on Fletcher Parkway on June 20, according to the documents.

The lawsuit said Rivas and Mora took Vedoy to the ground even though he had a trolley pass.

“I was pretty surprised when I had four clients come through my door in a period of 90 days all saying that it was the exact same officer,” said Gilliland.

An MTS spokesman said the transit system would not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit listed MTS, the MTS Director of Security Manny Guaderrama, Universal Protection Service, MTS Code Compliance Officer Rivas, and Universal Protection Service Officer Mora as defendants.

The lawsuit accused the officers of excessive force, civil rights violations, and assault and battery.

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