Firefighter handcuffed at accident scene by CHP files lawsuit

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A Chula Vista firefighter who was handcuffed by a California Highway Patrol officer at an accident scene earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against the state as new revelations emerged about the officer's past.

In early February, at an accident scene on Interstate 805 in Chula Vista, firefighter Jake Gregoire said he parked his engine to protect the ambulance from traffic.

He said he was handcuffed after veteran CHP Officer Sergio Flores barked at him to leave the scene.

Gregoire refused.

"I couldn't live with myself for the rest of my life that someone could potentially be injured because I didn't stand up for what I believe in," Gregoire said during an interview in March.

After the two agencies' supervisors went back and forth for half an hour that night, Gregoire was released.

The agencies involved called it an isolated incident, which upset Gregoire. He said he knows of altercations involving Flores and firefighters attempting to park, before and after his incident.  

Dan Gilleon, Gregoire's attorney, said he uncovered a documented 2010 incident involving Flores threatening a firefighter with arrest.

Gregoire filed a claim, but offered to drop it if policies were changed. Gilleon said the state rejected that idea, leading to Gregoire's lawsuit alleging civil rights violations.

"He knows if he back down, this is going to happen to someone else," said Gilleon.

Gilleon said the suit will include Flores' past acts.
 
In 1999, an attempted traffic stop in Ocean Beach ended with a foot chase in an alley. After the suspect, Walter Wacik-Santamaria, was handcuffed and immobilized by four CHP and San Diego police officers, he heard one officer talking.

"What he says to man is 'don't you know you don't run from police,' before someone twisted the ankle, stepped on it and broke his ankle," said Gilleon.

While it's unclear who did what, a jury found Flores and another officer liable for the battery, awarding a judgment of nearly $600,000, which included attorney fees.

"This is a sign of supreme arrogance and a sign this man is a dangerous man in uniform," said Gilleon.

Flores was not criminally charged in the Ocean Beach incident. It's unknown if he was disciplined.

Team 10 asked the CHP why Flores kept his job after the incident. The CHP declined to make any comments, but did confirm he remains on the force.

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