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Altadena Man Gets $118,000 Award in Suit Against Police

November 17, 1994|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Pasadena Superior Court jury has awarded $118,000 in damages to an Altadena man who was injured in a 1991 fracas involving nine family members and Pasadena police officers.

Although the civil trial lasted only about three days, the jury deliberated for six days before reaching a decision Nov. 4 in favor of Gordon McCullough, 40.

"I don't think the Pasadena Police Department is an unusually violent group, but there are cases where officers get out of hand, and it's up to jurors to compensate citizens when people's rights are violated," said McCullough's attorney, Joe Hopkins, after the verdict.

But Assistant City Atty. Larry Newberry said the city expects to legally contest the jury's decision.

McCullough, a schizophrenic, had been attending a family reunion Aug. 17, 1991, at Brookside Park when he caught the attention of social workers at a nearby county-sponsored picnic. They said they saw a man wearing a woman's robe and a backpack-type baby carrier with a doll inside, and he was leading two small children by the hand.

The children eventually proved to be McCullough's.

Police arrived, and a confrontation ensued. The melee drew in McCullough's family members and a bystander, all of whom are black, and who were tear-gassed by more than two dozen officers summoned to the scene by the social workers. Twelve people, including a 7-year-old child, later filed civil lawsuits against the city. All were settled out of court, with the city paying from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars in each case, Hopkins said.

McCullough himself was charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. In February, 1992, he was found innocent of battery but guilty of resisting arrest. He was placed on probation.

During McCullough's civil trial against the city, former Pasadena Police Officer Donald Gallon testified that McCullough attacked him, forcing him to subdue McCullough. Gallon said McCullough later told police that he had not taken his medication and that he had overheard police say that Hitler had told them to come and get him.

McCullough, a former construction worker who testified in court wearing battle fatigues with a general's emblem, said that he had worn the woman's robe the day of the picnic to entertain children at the family reunion. Further, he testified that his condition did not require daily medication and that Gallon attacked him from behind without provocation.

The jury found that Gallon did not intentionally use force to cause harm, thus the city was not liable for McCullough's injuries nor was McCullough due punitive damages.

However, the jury decided Gallon did assault McCullough, causing him back injuries and bruises equivalent to $118,000.

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