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Shot Man Plans Suit

Garden Grove resident hurt by a plainclothes Anaheim officer in the Crystal Cathedral parking lot will sue for negligence, lawyer says.

March 01, 2003|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A Garden Grove man shot by a plainclothes Anaheim officer in the Crystal Cathedral parking lot last week plans to sue the Police Department for negligence, his lawyer said Friday.

Jeffrey Santelli, 31, was shot in the stomach Feb. 20 shortly after he met his mother, a secretary at the cathedral, in the church parking lot.

Santelli's attorney, James Trout of Santa Ana, said the officer apparently mistook his client for a gang member. When Santelli confronted the officer outside the church -- unaware he was a policeman -- he was shot without provocation, Trout said.

"Nobody knew he was a cop. It was pretty scary. They thought he was some lunatic," Trout said.

The officer, Scott McManus, is back on duty. In 1996, McManus was sued in federal court for police brutality, a case the city settled for $90,000, court records show.

McManus could not be reached for comment. Police and city officials declined to comment about possible legal action.

Police officials said that on Feb. 20, McManus was part of a six-member gang unit conducting surveillance when he noticed Santelli driving erratically, and that he followed him across the Anaheim city line to the Crystal Cathedral.

He then confronted him in the parking lot, where an altercation occurred, police said.

The shooting is being investigated by Garden Grove police and the Orange County district attorney's office.

Neither Santelli nor his mother, Maureen Winer, has spoken publicly about the shooting.

According to Santelli's attorney, Winer called her son and asked him to bring her a credit card because she was going to a birthday lunch with co-workers.

As Santelli got close to the parking lot, he was unsure where his mother had parked. He drove slowly, then stopped abruptly before pulling his Ford Explorer into one of the two entrances.

Santelli was standing on a grass median speaking to his mother through her car window when he heard someone hollering at him from behind the car.

Santelli was unarmed and had nothing in his hands, Trout said. He walked around the back of the car and saw a man in shorts and a T-shirt standing outside a Suzuki Samari.

When the two were 6 to 8 feet apart, Santelli asked the man who he was and what he wanted, then the shooting occurred, Trout said.

"The guy gets in the crouch position with the gun, and shoots him dead-center," Trout said. "I suspect [McManus] mistakenly identified him as a gang member they were chasing."

Santelli's mother saw everything in her rear-view mirror, Trout said. She was traumatized and has not returned to work, a family member said.

On Friday, Santelli was recovering at home. His doctors opted to leave some bullet fragments lodged in his abdomen.

"Both of them are going to have to have treatment," said Santelli's stepfather, Burt Winer. "Jeff's on pain medication, and we don't know exactly what the results are going to be later on.... It's an emotional, tough time."

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in 1996, Fernando Ortiz alleged that McManus came looking for him in September 1995, a day after McManus arrested him for being under the influence of marijuana.

Ortiz alleged that McManus was apparently outraged that he had been released into a diversion program. The officer caught up to Ortiz and assaulted him, Ortiz said in court documents.

Ortiz was arrested at the time for assault and battery on a police officer but found not guilty. McManus denied injuring Ortiz. The city settled but admitted no wrongdoing.

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