SAN DIEGO - A police mistake turned a lunch date into a nightmare for a local couple, and a judge ruled officers illegally detained them.
"I was hurt. I was confused. I didn't know what was going on," said Dante Harrell.
For Harrell, that March day in 2010 began as a day of relaxation. He, his fiancee Shannon Robinson and a friend were headed to brunch in City Heights.
After they pulled into the restaurant, a San Diego police patrol car, right behind them, parked and blocked a potential exit.
Harrell said one of the officers approached them, admitted to typing in the wrong letter during a routine license plate check, but wanted to check them out anyway.
Harrell said after repeated questioning and about 15 minutes of waiting, he asked Robinson to call 911 to ask for a supervisor because something didn't feel right.
He said he heard one officer says this: "He says, 'They're on the phone with our supervisor. Isn't that childish? I'm about to OC them."
"OC" is another word for pepper spray.
Harrell said he held on to his fiancee as he was pepper sprayed and then tasered repeatedly, before he and Robinson were dragged out of the car.
In a civil ruling, a judge decided the couple was illegally detained and Robinson was unlawfully arrested.
Attorney Julia Yoo, who represents Harrell and Robinson, said, "They didn't have a right to continue that stop. Once you realize you've made a mistake and pulled over innocent people, you don't have a right to further interrogate them. It's unconstitutional. This needs to be stopped, because it could happen to anybody."
Harrell, a barber, said he suffers from weakness in his hands from the incident. He also said stress related to the incident led to a break-up with Robinson.
"I just want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. Our neighborhoods need to feel safe with their officers. We just came to eat that day, and the people we expected to protect us are hurting us," said Harrell.
In September, a jury will decide whether the police officers used excessive force.
The San Diego City Attorney's Office declined comment.
The two officers involved, Officers Ariel Savage and Daniel McLain, remain on the force and both have served for eight years. One is accused of false arrest in another civil lawsuit.
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