Settlement detailed in excessive force case
Hipolito Aranda, a 48-year-old Latino man with limited English skills, suffered broken ribs and a broken elbow after being flung violently to the ground, pummeled about the head and chest, then tased.
Police officer Tim Heidt was fired after the settlement was reached. Deputy Rich Broyles, whose role was less clear and considerably more limited, was not subjected to official discipline.
The city declined to release documents detailing its disciplinary process and other aspects of its handling of the case, citing exemptions in public records law designed to protect personal privacy. The News-Register filed an appeal to District Attorney Brad Berry, and he ruled in favor of the newspaper in a ruling issued Wednesday.
The city said it would accept the ruling without further appeal. The News-Register expects to be doing a followup story once it has had time to examine the records.
The lawsuit does not specify how the settlement is to be divided between the city and county. However, the fact they share an insurance provider makes that essentially moot.
Aranda was riding beside a driver stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence in February 2010. As McMinnville police went about interviewing and field-testing the driver, Aranda got out and asked if he could walk home.
The officers dealing with the driver denied the request made by Aranda and asked Heidt, who had arrived to provide backup, to “keep an eye on him.”
Heidt began to conduct a frisk, then, within a matter of seconds, threw Aranda to the ground so hard he bounced, squad car videotape shows. The videotape continued to roll as Heidt began battering Aranda about the head and chest and Aranda responded by trying to shield himself without offering any resistance.
The tape shows Broyles pulling up to find Heidt grappling with Aranda and joining in, using his knees to strike Aranda in the chest and punching him in the head and shoulder. Sgt. Cully Desmond of the McMinnville police then approached and tased Aranda two or three times in the legs, it shows.
Aranda was charged with resisting arrest, but was acquitted by a jury that had to render its decision without benefit of the tape. After winning acquittal in the criminal case, he sued both the city and county in federal court, naming Heidt, Broyles and Desmond, along with Police Chief Ron Noble and Sheriff Jack Crabtree.
The city conducted an internal affairs investigation immediately following the incident, also without benefit of the videotape. Based on statements made by Heidt and fellow officers, it apparently served to justify his actions.
In February 2012, Heidt was vacationing in Seaside when he became embroiled in a drunken bar fight, then tried to force entry into a unit he mistook for his, leading a frightened female occupant to call 911. After investigating, the McMinnville Police Department demoted him from sergeant to officer and docked him a month’s pay.
Heidt, a McMinnville native and McMinnville High grad with 16 years on the force, filed a union grievance. An arbitrator upheld his demotion but restored his lost pay.
The department subsequently discovered it had viewable videotape from the Aranda incident. Even though it was facing civil litigation by this point, it commissioned a new internal affairs investigation.
The findings, which had to be turned over to Aranda’s attorney under discovery rules, were sharply critical of Heidt’s conduct. They also questioned the veracity of his account, saying it differed in important respects from what the videotape suggested.
After the settlement was reached, the department terminated Heidt.
The union served notice of its intent to pursue arbitration again, but the city is questioned the sufficiency of that notice, saying that requires a vote of the membership and none has been taken. Meanwhile, the deadline has passed.