LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Hawthorne Police Department is facing a lawsuit after a man says he was blinded in the right eye by police officers while handcuffed.
“I looked down, I saw blood coming out, I just knew it was from my eye. It was just excruciating pain,” said the plaintiff Rafael Salgado.
42-year-old Salgado said on May 3 he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence at his Hawthorne home.
He says when he arrived at the police station, one of the officers pulled him out of the cruiser and began walking him to the jail when suddenly, the officer violently shoved him face-first into a row of metal lockboxes.
A key sticking out of one of the locks went through Salgado’s eyelid and into his eye.
“I wanted to go down and hold my eye but I couldn’t because I was still in handcuffs and he was still yanking me around like nothing had happened,” Salgado said.
Salgado told CBS Los Angeles that he was not resisting arrest and had his hands restrained behind his back when all of this happened.
He says he was then thrown into a jail cell and that despite his cries for help, did not receive immediate medical care.
“I needed medical attention and he wouldn’t do it and they were just laughing it off. I was just on the floor crying and screaming holding my eye and asking for help,” Salgado said. “I want to let them know that they’re here to protect the community, not to put fear in the community.”
Wesley Ouchi, Salgado’s attorney, says security cameras caught everything that happened to Salgado. He says that city officials allowed him to watch the footage, but he was not given a copy of it.
“You see the pictures, it’s horrifying, it’s absolutely horrifying,” Ouchi said. “It was absolutely shocking. We don’t treat people like that in this country, no matter what they are accused of or what they are alleged to have done.”
Ouchi has filed a notice of claim, which is the first step toward a lawsuit against the Hawthorne Police Department. He says Salgado, who worked in parking enforcement at UCLA, can’t see out of his right eye and now needs several surgeries.
“It’s gonna be a struggle for the rest of his life,” Ouchi said.
The Hawthorne Police Department sent us a statement saying the following:
“We are aware of the accident which occurred while Mr. Salgado was in our custody, during which he suffered an injury to his right eye. The City has been in communication with Mr. Salgado’s attorney regarding this. In addition, an administrative investigation into the circumstances of this incident has been initiated. We are unable to comment further due to pending litigation.”
Salgado’s attorney has denied all allegations of domestic violence again him. So far, charges have been filed at this point.