A District resident is demanding $60 million from Fairfax County officials, alleging that he suffered permanent brain damage early last year when police clubbed him after he was handcuffed and subdued for traffic violations.
Victor M. Cruz, 33, alleged in a civil suit filed yesterday in federal court in Alexandria that Sgt. R.L. Smith and unnamed officers used excessive force when they arrested him after what police described as an eight-mile, high-speed chase.
Cruz, a Salvadoran native who came to the United States seven years ago, also claimed that Chief of Police John E. Granfield and the Board of Supervisors have failed to properly train and discipline county police officers.
Joel A. Skirble, Cruz's attorney, described the incident as a mugging and said the suit notifies police "that this kind of criminal behavior against defenseless minorities will no longer be tolerated."
At a news conference yesterday in his office, Skirble said he found it "ironic that the same kind of police brutality that Mr. Cruz sought to escape in El Salvador ends up victimizing him just a few miles from our nation's capital."
Fairfax police spokesman Warren Carmichael said the department had not received a copy of the suit and would not comment on the incident or the allegations. Carmichael also declined to comment on past or ongoing brutality claims against Fairfax police.
Assistant County Attorney Robert M. Ross would not discuss specific cases but said that in the last two years there have been cases in which officers were disciplined and sometimes removed from the force for using excessive force.
Smith was fired shortly after Cruz was arrested the night of April 27, 1989, according to law enforcement sources. An FBI investigation into Smith's conduct determined there were no grounds for filing criminal charges against the officer and the investigation was dropped, sources said.
The incident began when a Loudoun County sheriff's deputy observed a car traveling south in the northbound lane of Route 28 near Dulles International Airport, according to the Loudoun Sheriff's Department.
Fairfax police picked up the car after it ran stoplights at the Dulles Toll Road and Route 50 intersections, law enforcement officials said at the time. The pursuit ended when police, following procedure, rammed Cruz's car, police said.
Cruz was charged with several misdemeanors, including driving while intoxicated, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving and failing to stop for police. Skirble said his client pleaded guilty to some of the charges and served 32 days in jail.
Skirble said that the police department's quick action against Smith in no way exonerates Fairfax officials. "Should they get credit for firing him? No. They should never have hired him," Skirble said.
Smith could not be reached for comment.
Skirble added that Cruz, who was treated for two cuts above his left eye, did not resist arrest after police stopped his car and that the officer had no reason to use force. "I don't believe a police chase and intoxication gives a police officer the right" to club a suspect, Skirble said.
Cruz and his wife, Maria Claibel Cruz, are seeking $30 million in punitive damages and $30 million in compensatory damages against all nine county supervisors, Chief Granfield and former sergeant Smith.