A call for help to find a missing Spring Valley teenager ended with allegations that Sheriff’s deputies violated a family’s constitutional rights, used excessive force and triggered an elderly woman’s heart attack.
According to a legal claim filed against the county, the incident happened last October, in a Spring Valley apartment complex. NBC 7 Investigates obtained the claim through a request under the California Public Records Act.
Cesar Jamarillo said he was eating dinner when he heard a loud knock on the door of his family’s apartment. “I looked out the window, and it’s a (deputy),” Jamarillo told NBC 7 Investigates.
He said the deputy told him he was looking for the parents of an African-American teenage girl, who had reported their daughter missing.
Jamarillo said he told the deputy that he knew the girl and her parents and that they lived in an apartment with the same number (17), but in a different building, across the courtyard.
Jamarillo claims he politely gave the deputy directions to the other family’s apartment but said the deputy and a colleague continued to ask him questions.
When Jamarillo told the deputies that he’d given them all the information he had, and assured them no one other than his own family was inside his apartment, one of the deputies allegedly grabbed him by the arm, pulled him out the front door, handcuffed him and shoved him to the ground.
“That’s when my grandma came out,” Jamarillo recalled. “She was scared. She was like, ‘What’s going on?’ She thought I’d done something (wrong).”
Jamarillo’s grandmother, Teodora Villalobos, who speaks only Spanish, told NBC 7 Investigates she was upset and frightened by the situation and her inability to get an explanation from the deputies.
"I just started screaming, ‘What's happening? Why is he arrested? Why is he in handcuffs? What did he do? ’” Villalobos recalled.
The family’s attorney said Villalobos had a mild heart attack, that required emergency medical transport to a hospital for a five-day stay.
“I collapsed,” Villalobos recalled. “I had chest pains, I couldn't breathe."
The family’s attorney said medical records confirm that Villalobos suffered a mild heart attack that caused permanent medical problems.
“I was a hard-working woman, always on top of what needed to be done in my house,” Villalobos said. “Now, I”m not the same. I have constant pain in my chest and throughout my body.”
"(That) heart attack that changed her life dramatically” said attorney Chris Morris. “And it’s unfortunate, (because) had the officers acted reasonably, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Morris claims sheriff's deputies had no right or reason to detain and handcuff Cesar and violated his constitutional rights when they did so.
“Under the law, under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, you have an absolute right not to talk with the police, to not come out of your home, to be safe in your home,” Morris said.
The legal claim filed by Morris on behalf of Jamarillo and Villalobos seeks $725,000 in damages for each of them.
The Sheriff’s department declined to comment on the legal claim or any of the allegations made by the family and their attorney.