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Civil Service Backs Firing of Officer in Beating of Prisoner

September 08, 1988|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON PARK — The city's Civil Service Commission has ruled that the city was justified in firing an officer accused of hitting and kicking a handcuffed prisoner who died shortly after being arrested.

Peter McGuire was fired Dec. 16, 1987, for his role in the arrest and alleged beating of Acacio Ramirez three months before.

The handcuffed Ramirez was getting out of a Huntington Park police cruiser when McGuire kicked him in front, then hit him "on the upper back with both hands clinched together," the Civil Service Commission said in its unanimous ruling.

Ramirez, who also used the name Jose Robles, died Sept. 15, 1987, from injuries suffered during the arrest, the Los Angeles County coroner's office found. An autopsy also revealed alcohol and cocaine in Ramirez's body at the time of death, a spokesman said.

Action Postponed

The City Council was to consider the commission's findings Tuesday night, but postponed action at the request of McGuire's lawyer. The council is scheduled to consider the matter at its Sept. 19 meeting.

"I don't think there's any reason why (the firing) shouldn't be (upheld)," said lawyer Samuel J. Wells, who is representing the city in the case.

The three-member Civil Service Commission was McGuire's final recourse in the city's appeal process. If the council upholds the firing, McGuire will ask the Superior Court to reinstate him, said lawyer Richard A. Shinee.

Shinee said the city has no evidence to indicate his client mistreated Ramirez.

"It's up to the city of Huntington Park to prove the allegations are true," Shinee said. "I don't think they met that burden. We intend to seek an appeal with the Superior Court."

Fought With Ramirez

Police said officers went to Ramirez's Seville Avenue residence after his girlfriend went to the city police station and reported that Ramirez had physically abused her. She requested assistance to remove her belongings, police said.

Ramirez, a 32-year-old machinist, reportedly became angry and reached toward his girlfriend, police said. The officers fought with Ramirez before they handcuffed him and took him to the police station, where he was placed in a booking cell, police said.

Paramedics were called after a lieutenant saw that Ramirez was having trouble breathing. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he was to have been booked for investigation of battery and resisting arrest, police said. But Ramirez died less than two hours after his arrest.

McGuire was suspended with pay shortly after the death, and was dismissed Dec. 16. Another officer involved in the arrest, Roy Segura, was suspended without pay for 30 days and has since returned to duty, said Craig Robinson, assistant chief administrative officer.

The district attorney's office is reviewing the case to decide if criminal charges will be filed, a spokeswoman said.

A $6-million lawsuit has been filed against the city and the arresting officers on behalf of Ramirez's two children. The Superior Court lawsuit alleges the two policemen used excessive force that led to Ramirez's death.

The suit alleges that McGuire and Segura struck Ramirez on the head several times with their batons while he was handcuffed and seated on the sofa of his duplex. The suit also alleges that the officers assaulted Ramirez while he was in custody.

"I don't really hold out much hope that the case is going to be negotiated (an out-of-court settlement reached) but you never know, said Peter M. Williamson, an attorney representing the children.

Two other former Huntington Park officers, William J. Lustig and Robert Rodriguez, were convicted last year of torturing a 17-year-old burglary suspect with an electric stun gun while he sat handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. A lawsuit against the city in that case is pending.

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