03/02/2001

2 Calif. men sue city and PD in arrest incident

By Anna Gorman, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

(VENTURA, Calif.) -- Two harbor employees are suing the city and its Police Department, alleging that officers used excessive force and violated their constitutional rights.

Edward Zizumbo, 28, and his brother Santiago, 21, allege that Ventura police officers repeatedly struck them with a baton as they were standing on Spinnaker Drive while returning from a lunch break on Feb. 2, 2000, according to the suit. Both men suffered serious injuries that sent them to the hospital, the lawsuits maintain.

"The police officers started attacking us for no reason," Edward Zizumbo said in an interview this week. "It made me feel really upset, especially because we were at my work. That made me look bad."

The two men maintain and repair boats at the harbor.

Edward Zizumbo added that the officers accused him and his brother of being gang members, but he said neither of them belongs to a gang. The Mexican American men said they were wearing their work uniforms--tan shirts and blue pants--at the time of the alleged incident.

The Zizumbos were arrested on suspicion of fighting in public and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped, said their attorney, Robert Bartosh.

The suit, filed last week in Ventura County Superior Court, says the Zizumbos were "battered, threatened and arrested and jailed in a detention center without legal or probable cause."

It also states that the action of the two Ventura police officers, Jay Theis and Thomas Mendez, was "willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive."

Bartosh said the case is an example of how unfairly police officers in Ventura County treat minorities. "If you are a minority, you are going to be subject to more force than somebody standing there in a suit and tie," he said.

Ventura City Atty. Bob Boehm declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying he has not yet seen a copy of it.

Edward Zizumbo was suspected of gang activity in the past. In 1996, his parents were evicted from their federally subsidized home in east Ventura because of the alleged actions of Edward and his brother Daniel, whom police said terrorized the neighborhood.

Daniel Zizumbo is in prison after being convicted for attempted murder of a Ventura teenager.

Edward and Santiago Zizumbo are both seeking damages of an unspecified amount.

Copyright 2001 / Los Angeles Times

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