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Reporter files claim against L.A.

August 25, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

A television reporter who was pushed against a cargo container while pursuing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Friday that she has filed a legal claim against the city.

Alicia Unger, a reporter for the Spanish-language network Azteca America, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages stemming from the Aug. 3 incident, which occurred as several reporters chased Villaraigosa as he left the Port of Los Angeles.

Attorney Luis Carrillo said port police Sgt. Kevin McCloskey used excessive force against his client when he blocked Unger.

"He pushed a 5-foot-2, 5-foot-3 woman who's 100 pounds into a steel container," Carrillo said. "There was no need to use that level of force against that little woman. She was no threat to him."

Port police reassigned McCloskey to administrative duties while they review the incident.

"As we have stated from the day this incident occurred, the Port of Los Angeles takes this matter very seriously and a thorough investigation is well underway," said port spokeswoman Theresa Adams-Lopez.

Film of the incident aired on local news stations, as well as on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."

The city has 45 days to reject the legal claim before a lawsuit can be filed.

In her claim, filed Thursday, Unger said she suffered physical injuries and emotional trauma and needed medical treatment. Unger also alleged that port police failed to provide McCloskey proper training and supervision.

Unger, 40, of San Pedro, was one of several reporters who were barred by port police from approaching Villaraigosa as he strode away from a podium where he had declined to comment on the decision by Telemundo's KVEA-TV Channel 52 to suspend his girlfriend, newscaster Mirthala Salinas, for two months.

Salinas announced the end of Villaraigosa's marriage on the air without mentioning that she had a relationship with him at the time.

In an odd twist, Telemundo captured the clearest footage of Unger as she ran after the mayor and was blocked by the police officer; that footage aired on its sister station, KNBC-TV Channel 4.

Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo said his office had no comment.

The claim does not name the mayor, but Carrillo said he would be called as a witness if a lawsuit was filed.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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