By Joe Hughes
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO, Calif. —The family of a 29-year-old man has filed a complaint against San Diego police officers, accusing them of using excessive force during a routine traffic stop.
Nathaniel Gilbert was hospitalized with severe head and facial injuries and may lose his right eye, his father said.
San Diego police said Gilbert suffered the injuries after he became combative while being taken into custody.
Gilbert was stopped by police after he drove into the driveway of his North Bay Terraces home in southeastern San Diego shortly before 5 p.m. Nov. 8, according to an account provided by his father, William Gilbert Jr.
As his son got out of the car, he asked officers why he was being stopped and was told to get back in the car, the senior Gilbert said.
“Officers then told my son after a time that he was stopped because of a broken taillight,” Gilbert said. “When he inquired as to whether he would get a fix-it ticket, or warning, one thing led to another.”
His son ended up struggling with officers in his driveway, at one point calling out to his girlfriend in the house to come out and witness what was happening, his father said.
Gilbert, who was bleeding from several head wounds, according to his father, was taken to downtown police headquarters for processing and then to Sharp Coronado Hospital for treatment.
At the hospital, doctors said Gilbert would have to be treated at UCSD Medical Center and called for an ambulance to take him there.
Gilbert was admitted about midnight, about seven hours after the altercation, and treated for loss of consciousness, a concussion, skull fracture, and eye and facial injuries, according to hospital records.
His father, a nutritionist at Naval Medical Center San Diego, said his son may need surgery to save an eye.
Gilbert spent two days in the hospital and is recovering at home. He has declined to be interviewed on the advice of an attorney.
“I can't understand how this escalated after just a traffic stop,” his father said. “My son respects the police and the job they have to do.”
Nathaniel Gilbert, who works as a counselor for troubled youths, is a former standout football player at Lincoln and Mount Miguel high schools.
“I find it hard to believe that no officers would be hurt during this. My son is 5-foot-11 and weighs 260 pounds,” William Gilbert said. “If he were indeed combative, he would have inflicted some damage.”
Detective Gary Hassen, a San Diego police spokesman, said he had no information on whether any officers were injured. About a dozen converged on the driveway on Woodbine Way in an effort to subdue Gilbert, one neighborhood witness said.
Hassen released this statement: “On Nov. 8 at 4:45 p.m., a stop was made on a car driven by Nathaniel Gilbert for a traffic infraction. During the stop, Gilbert became combative and while being taken into custody he sustained injuries to his face.”
Hassen said that the investigation has been turned over to Internal Affairs and that no charges against Gilbert have been filed. Hassen said police would have no further comment.
William Gilbert said he had examined his son's car after the incident and found no faulty taillight.
Copyright 2007 The San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego officers' level of force questioned