McLEAN, Va. - A former Loudoun County sheriff's deputy is facing a federal civil rights lawsuit after a patrol car camera appeared to show him knocking out an unsuspecting target with a blow to the back of the head delivered at a full sprint.
Sterling, Va., resident Carlos Garcia filed the lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, but papers were served only recently on the defendant, Terry Daniel, who resigned from the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office last year.
Garcia's lawyer, Victor Glasberg, said the video _ which has been posted on YouTube _ is clear and unambiguous evidence of an unprovoked assault. It shows Garcia standing with his hands in the air next to another deputy and his back turned as Daniel approaches rapidly. Garcia collapses immediately after being struck by the deputy.
In the lawsuit, Garcia says the blow knocked him unconscious and has left him with permanent brain damage, including headaches, loss of memory and confusion.
"I've been doing this 35 years, and this is the first time my case doesn't need a witness. My case is that tape," Glasberg said.
The encounter happened in November 2009. Daniel was a deputy in the Loudoun sheriff's office from 2003 to 2011, when he submitted a resignation letter saying he was taking another law-enforcement job in another state, said Liz Mills, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County sheriff. Records show that Daniel was promoted in 2010 _ a year after the incident _ to a job as a training officer, Mills said.
Daniel, 34, who now lives in Valley, Ala., said in a phone interview that he is coordinating with the county to hire a lawyer. He declined further comment.
Mills said the incident occurred under the previous sheriff, Steven Simpson, who lost his bid for re-election last year. The new sheriff, Mike Chapman, campaigned on a pledge to restore professionalism to the sheriff's office, she said.
Interestingly, it was Garcia who wound up being charged following the November 2009 incident with assaulting a police officer. Court records show he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor battery and received a suspended sentence.
In the lawsuit, Glasberg writes that Garcia consistently denied assaulting anyone, but opted to plead guilty to a reduced charge with a suspended sentence to avoid a felony trial. And Glasberg said the criminal allegations are unrelated to the assault Garcia suffered; even if the incident had unfolded as police described, it would have been minutes before Daniel's attack on Garcia, Glasberg said.
According to the lawsuit, Garcia was out with family celebrating his wife's birthday at a restaurant in a Sterling shopping center. Realizing they'd had too much to drink, the family called for a taxi to get home. But the taxi driver could not take the entire party, and a deputy told Garcia and his family to get out of the cab.
After the taxi drove off, a dispute ensued between the deputy and members of Garcia's family. At the time Daniel pulled up in his patrol car, Garcia was standing with his hands in the air as his wife was being arrested, insisting that his wife be treated with care, according to the civil complaint.
"Daniel used outrageous, abusive, unreasonable and excessive force in striking Mr. Garcia on the head and stepping on his face, thereby depriving Mr. Garcia of his constitutionally protected rights," Glasberg wrote in the lawsuit.
The suit names only Daniel as a defendant. It seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Glasberg said the patrol video surfaced when one of Garcia's family members challenged the criminal charges at trial.
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