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Lawsuit alleges excessive force by Oceanside Police

The incident happened Nov. 22, 2018
Posted at 3:04 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-10 12:47:19-04

OCEANSIDE (KGTV) -- A North County mother said Oceanside Police used excessive force on her son in a civil lawsuit that has been ongoing for nearly two years.

Josette Pyper said her son, Timothy, has been battling mental health issues and addiction. She believes his injuries by police should not have happened.

“It was horrible,” Pyper said, sharing her story publicly for the first time. “I couldn’t even watch the whole video. It’s hard. Very very hard.”

Pyper is referring to the incident that happened on Nov. 22, 2018.

According to the lawsuit filed against Oceanside police and the City of Oceanside, a report of tire slashing was called in by Timothy’s father. His father had a restraining order against him, yet often invited him to visit, according to court documents.

The lawsuit states his father called police and also mentioned “that there were potentially two guns in the home.”

Police came to investigate the possible restraining order violation and vandalism. Court documents said that police began making public announcements for him to come out of the home, but he did not.

Several officers and police K-9 entered the home. They found him in a locked bedroom, which the lawsuit stated was Timothy’s room. An officer picked the lock and opened the door, ordering him to come out with his hands up.

“Tim complied with the officers’ command and began walking towards the door. As he did so, the officers changed their command and told him to ‘crawl out,’” the lawsuit said. The family’s lawyers aid the command was confusing, as Timothy began to slowly walk towards the officers to surrender.

Police body camera video shows Timothy slowly start to exit his bedroom with one armed raised and the other near his ribcage. “He was wearing only boxers and clearly did not possess any weapons. It looked as though he had been sleeping,” the lawsuit stated.

With a shield, an officer pushed Timothy back into his bedroom. Video showed him on the ground after being shoved back into the room with his hands up and feet on the floor. The family’s lawyer said reports from officers that Timothy tried to “violently” strike police were false.

The body camera video showed police pulling Timothy up to arrest him, then getting bit by the police K-9.

“He’s in full surrender mode and it’s captured on video and they yank him up, they pull him up by his arm,” said the family’s attorney Christina Denning. “He trips over some clothes and then it’s just a brutal multi-tactical attack on him at every different angle as he’s screaming… for his life.”

According to the lawsuit, one officer admitted to punching Timothy “with a closed fist in [his] right ribcage… and then applied a choke hold during the arrest.” Another officer admitted “he shot Tim with a .40 mm sponge impact munition,” or rubber bullet.

“It’s not right… there was a point in that video where he actually was asking [for his] dad,” Pyper said. “They were still on top of him. Is that a threat?”

Josette’s son has a criminal history. His most recent cases included public intoxication and possession of drug paraphernalia. She said Timothy is schizophrenic, dealing with addiction. She does not believe the officers were equipped to handle someone who has mental health issues.

Oceanside City Attorney John Mullen defended officers. In a statement to Team 10, he said officers waited more than an hour before entering the bedroom and at least 44 orders were made demanding he exit the room. “As plaintiff approached the officers with one hand obscured, the officers deployed less than lethal tactics, including the use of a canine. The officers were concerned [Timothy] was trying to access a weapon,” Mullen wrote to Team 10.

He said the restraining order was issued due to elder abuse against the father and that Timothy “violated this order and barricaded himself in the father’s house.”

“OPD was called to this same address one month earlier for a similar violation of the restraining order and plaintiff was combative and injured two officers during that arrest,” Mullen said.

Team 10 asked if officers knew of Timothy's mental health history and asked if the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team was called to the home. Mullen said “the City has no information concerning his mental state at the time of the incident or now.”

Mullen said he does not believe PERT was called to the home "because this was an active crime scene with unsecured guns in the house."

The family’s lawyers disputed that, saying officers were aware of his mental health from meetings they’ve had with opposing counsel.

Pyper wants to her get her son help and firmly believes the incident with Oceanside Police could have been handled differently.

“They need to be accountable for what happened," she said.

A trial date is scheduled for late 2021.