SAN DIEGO — San Diego County has settled a $1 million lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed man with down syndrome after a sheriff’s deputy beat and pepper sprayed him because he mistakenly thought the man was resisting arrest.
Antonio Martinez, 21, left his family’s bakery when he was approached by Deputy Jeffrey Guy, who police say was responding to reports of domestic violence somewhere in the neighborhood.
Martinez’s family claims Antonio functions at the level of a 7-year-old child, and when Deputy Guy commanded Martinez to stop walking, he was confused and frightened. Martinez did not respond in a way that Deputy Guy found satisfactory, so he justified a use of force in apprehending Martinez.
Bystanders watched as Deputy Guy beat Martinez with a metal baton and sprayed him with pepper spray while he screamed and begged for the officer to stop.
Despite the unnecessary use of force, Sheriff Bill Gore says he did not even consider firing Deputy Guy, who was not charged with a crime, and is still employed by the sheriff’s office.
“If I thought he targeted a Down syndrome person, I’d have fired him before the week was out,” Gore said, adding “…that was not the case. The deputy made mistakes.”
Jude Bastile, an attorney hired by Martinez’s family, said he was disappointed that the sheriff’s office refused to fire Guy for police brutality and excessive force.
“Did the Sheriff’s Department learn anything from this incident? I don’t think so,” said Bastile.
A report by Mercury News shows that prior to being hired by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Guy had at least six complaints of excessive force while employed with the San Jose police.