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Inquiry Clears Riverside Deputy Videotaped Hitting Immigrant

Full viewing of incident shows use of force was reasonable, sheriff says. A lawyer who has aided the man calls the decision a whitewash.

August 28, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

An internal investigation by Riverside County sheriff's officials has cleared a deputy of wrongdoing in a videotaped confrontation in which he is seen hitting a Mexican immigrant near Temecula in April, authorities said Wednesday.

"We looked at the use of force and found it within our policy and reasonable," Sheriff Bob Doyle said.

The status of an FBI civil rights investigation in the case could not be determined Wednesday.

In the videotape, first broadcast by the Spanish-language network Telemundo, Deputy Alex Todd appeared to punch Francisco Padilla, 18, three times in the head with his right fist.

Todd also apparently held Padilla's head down with his right forearm and appeared to hit him again in the face with his left fist.

The confrontation occurred after Todd pulled Padilla over in a traffic stop. Shortly after the arrest, Padilla was turned over to immigration officials and deported to Mexico.

Doyle said an extended videotape of the incident was provided by the network.

He said it showed a physical confrontation beginning with Padilla sitting in a car.

He said Padilla ran from the car, with Todd urging him to stop.

"The deputy gets ahold of him, they go to the ground, and you can see the deputy does not have control of [Padilla's] hands," Doyle said. "We're trained [that] you've got to get control of the hands for your own safety. I've seen lesser situations where we're burying deputies."

"It enforces the officers' code of silence," said Luis Carrillo, a Montebello attorney who has represented Padilla. "This is a whitewash."

Doyle expressed regret that sheriff's investigators weren't able to interview Padilla about the incident, saying they relied on statements Padilla gave immigration officers before his deportation. Doyle said Padilla's statement would not have changed the decision.

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