$1M Settlement Reached in Alleged Excessive Force Case on Man With Down Syndrome: Attorney

On Dec. 12, 2012, SDSO Deputy Jeffrey Guy allegedly used excessive force on Tony Martinez, 21, a man with Down Syndrome, an attorney for the victim says

A $1 million settlement has been reached in a case involving a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department deputy accused of using excessive force on a man with Down Syndrome, a law firm announced Friday.

The Basile Law Firm said the San Diego County Board of Supervisors has approved the settlement for the victim, Antonio “Tony” Martinez, who was allegedly illegally detained, beaten, arrested and charged by Deputy Jeffrey Guy.

The settlement was discussed during a closed session on June 23, records show, and finalized on June 25. NBC 7 reached out to the Board of Supervisors Friday for comment on the settlement.

Martinez's attorney, Jude Basile, sent NBC 7 an email in which a  deputy county counsel confirms the County of San Diego will pay the $1 million settlement to the victim. The email does not go into further details about the case.

According to the law firm, the encounter between the deputy and Martinez happened on Postal Way in Vista on Dec. 12, 2012, when the victim was 21 years old.

Martinez, who has Down Syndrome, was walking to his family’s bakery where he worked when Guy pulled up beside him and asked him to stop.

Martinez failed to do so, and that’s when things escalated.

According to a lawsuit filed by the victim’s family in May 2014, Guy began yelling at Martinez and then jumped out of his car, ran into Martinez’s path and doused him in pepper spray.

The lawsuit accuses Guy of then striking Martinez multiple times with a metal baton, taking the young man to the ground. According to the complaint, as Martinez was bloodied and beaten by the deputy, his sisters and other bystanders screamed at the deputy to stop, yelling that Martinez has Down Syndrome.

Guy then handcuffed Martinez and took him to a local hospital for X-rays and evaluation. He had suffered “facial abrasions to his nose and over his eye, and leg, arm and back pain with contusions,” according to the family’s lawsuit.

After the exam, the deputy took Martinez to the Vista Sheriff’s Station.

The Basile Law Firm said Martinez’s father went to the station and asked to see his son. Deputies there allegedly refused to allow this, and Martinez was kept from him family for five hours.

Guy charged Martinez with delaying an officer in the performance of his duties. However, the law firm said that in sworn deposition testimony, Guy and two other members of the sheriff’s department said Guy had no “reasonable suspicion” to stop, detain or use force on Martinez.

The charge against Martinez was dropped the next day.

According to the lawsuit, the sheriff’s department offered the Martinez family a turkey dinner, possibly as a peace offering, the day after Martinez’s beating.

Guy testified that, given the same circumstances, he would do the same thing again.

The deputy involved in this excessive force case was hired by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department in August 2012 – just four months before the incident – and was a probationary employee. Before that, he had been a police officer in San Jose, Calif., for 13 years.

Since the incident, he has become a full-time deputy.

“This case exposed little or no training, policies and procedures for the department to deal with mentally disabled people, hopefully some good will come of this with how the officers recognize and treat disabled people,” said the family’s attorney, Jude Basile.

Before filing the lawsuit last year the Martinez family asked for an admission of wrongdoing from the sheriff’s department, an apology and changes in department policy when dealing with the mentally disabled.

The family also asked for Guy to commit to 100 hours of volunteer work with Special Olympics or the Down Syndrome Society. The family also hoped Guy would be terminated.

The requests were denied, Basile said, and the Martinez family moved forward with the lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, the attorney said the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has agreed that Sheriff Bill Gore will have a meeting with the Martinez family. An email from the office of the San Diego County Counsel confirms Gore will meet with the family and counsel.

Though Martinez has recovered from the injuries sustained in the excessive force incident, Basile said he “still expresses a fear of police.”

NBC 7 has reached out the San Diego County Sheriff's Department for comment on this case.

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