$750,000 Settlement Reached in Police Beating of Man Fixing His Own Fence

$750,000 Settlement Reached in Police Beating of Man Fixing His Own Fence

Carl Edwards was working on the fence on his property on July 30, 2017, in Vallejo, California, when his neighbor called 911. The woman said a Black man wearing a white tank top and black jeans was throwing rocks at her sons – and she specifically told the two police officers answering the call that the perpetrator was not her neighbor. Edwards was not wearing the clothing described.

Yet within minutes, Edwards, then 53, was beaten brutally and choked by four city police officers. In November 2020, the city agreed to pay Edwards $750,000 after he filed a civil rights lawsuit against Vallejo and its police department. In the lawsuit, Edwards accused police of excessive force, unreasonable seizure and malicious prosecution. The settlement did not admit fault or liability on the part of the police.

This is just the latest in a series of settlements agreed to by the city. Much larger settlements went to the families of those killed by police. Currently, Vallejo faces 24 federal civil rights cases and over a dozen tort claims.

Passing Out From Chokehold

As Edwards was working on the fence, he was tackled by the officers, then twice held in a chokehold until he passed out briefly. He was punched several times in the head and kneed. The footage from Officer Spencer Muniz-Bottomley's body camera shows him approaching Edwards, who is simply standing on his porch. He tells Edwards to put his hand up, and then the officer immediately puts Edwards in a chokehold.

As Edwards regains consciousness after passing out, Muniz-Bottomley is hitting him. The three other officers join in. At one point, Edwards says, "Why are you guys doing this? I didn't do anything to you guys."

Edwards suffered a broken nose, shoulder injuries, black eye, and various cuts and contusions.

Muniz-Bottomley had received many excessive force complaints during his time with the department. Two previous lawsuits involving him had been settled for $75,000 and $50,000. One incident involved him beating an obviously delusional man at a gas station. He left the Vallejo police department in 2018 but has since been hired by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department.

Statements Solicited From Two Boys

Two officers solicited statements from the two boys who claimed a man was targeting them with rocks from a slingshot. One boy was ten years old and the other was developmentally disabled. Although the boys gave police a vague description of Edwards as the perpetrator, their mother, Edwards' neighbor, told the officers that Edwards was not the suspect.

Edwards was charged with multiple felonies for assaulting the boys and the officers. The charges were not dropped for 14 months after finally being dismissed for lack of evidence.

Neighbor Records Cellphone Video

A neighbor across the street made a cellphone video of the beating, later stating he thought Edwards was going to die. He said it looked like the kind of beating the police may give "a hard-core criminal." Edwards' face is covered in blood. Edwards' attorney later said the video was one of the "most brutal, unprovoked police beatdowns" he had seen in his 30 years of practice.

Edwards has moved away from Vallejo.

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