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Quezada v. City of Los Angeles

California Court of Appeals, Second District, First Division

January 28, 2014

BELINDA QUEZADA et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Ordered Filed 1/8/14 (unmodified version)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County No. BC464380, Barbara M. Scheper, Judge.

Fullerton & Hanna and Lawrence J. Hanna for Plaintiffs and Appellants Belinda Quezada, Abel Cepeida and Enrique Verduzco.

Carmen A. Trutanich, City Attorney, and Paul L. Winnemore, Deputy City Attorney, for Defendants and Respondents City of Los Angeles and Charles Beck, Chief of Police.

ORDER MODIFYING OPINION

THE COURT:

It is ordered that the opinion filed herein on January 8, 2014, be modified as follows:

1. On page 2, third sentence of the second full paragraph, the name “Weiland’s Bakery” is changed to “Weiland’s Brewery.”

2. On page 3, line 3, the word “intimated” is changed to “intimidated.”

3. On pages 5, 7 through 9, 13, and 14 the name “Randall” is changed to “Randal.”

4. On pages 3, 5, 8, and 15 the name “Ornellas” is changed to “Ornelas.”

There is no change in the judgment.

JOHNSON, J.

Plaintiffs Belinda Quezada, Abel Cepeida, and Enrique Verduzco appeal summary judgment in their action against the City of Los Angeles (City) and Charles Beck, the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Plaintiffs, police officers with the City’s police department, sued the City based upon their treatment during a departmental investigation into the discharge of one of the officer’s weapons while the three officers were off duty and had been drinking at a bar near the police station. Plaintiffs asserted claims for civil rights violations under the Bane Act (Civ. Code, § 52.1) and violations of the Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights Act (Gov. Code, §§ 3300–3313) (POBRA). We affirm.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Factual Background

1. The Incident

Plaintiffs are police officers employed by the City’s police department (the Department). On June 15, 2010, the regular work shift for plaintiffs commenced at 2:30 p.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m. After their shift ended, the plaintiffs parked their personal vehicles at the Hollenbeck Station parking lot and went to Weiland’s Bakery, located near the intersection of First Street and Hewitt Street. Quezada had one drink, but Cepeida and Verduzco consumed numerous alcoholic beverages and became intoxicated. The three left the bar shortly before closing at 2:00 a.m. on June 16, 2010.

Quezada was talking on her cell phone and had reached the gate of the Hollenbeck substation’s parking lot when she heard gunshots. She stopped abruptly and looked behind her. She turned and saw Cepeida and Verduzco behind her. Believing that they had fired a gun, she disarmed both of them. Central Area officers received a report of “‘shots fired’” near First and Hewitt Streets. The witness heard approximately five to six gunshots, and described the suspects as two male Hispanics in white T-shirts.

Several patrol cars responded to the scene. Sergeant Hicks, one of the responding officers, ordered plaintiffs “on-duty” and separated them. Verduzco told officers that he had accidentally fired his gun in his truck, but an officer who looked into Verduzco’s truck did not find any evidence of shots fired. Cepeida does not dispute he did not see anyone search his car while he was still on the scene. Although Quezada observed officers looking in her car, she did not feel intimated and did not see them look at any part of her vehicle that was not in plain view. One of the responding officers took Quezada’s gun. Quezada, Verduzco and Cepeida were separated. Quezada did not tell the responding officers that she believed either Cepeida or Verduzco had fired a gun.

Detective Daniel Ornellas, who was assigned to the Internal Affairs Group’s Criminal Investigations Division, received a call regarding the incident and arrived at the scene around 4:25 a.m. to begin processing the evidence. It took approximately four hours to process the evidence. As Detective Ornellas believed the officers had used their own weapons in the shooting, he needed to search their vehicles to determine whether the weapons were inside the vehicles. When Detective Ornellas looked into Verduzco’s truck, he saw a weapon in plain view. He asked plaintiffs if he could search their vehicles, but plaintiffs refused to consent.

2. Interrogation of Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs were taken to three locations during their interrogation on June 16, 2010: Central Station, Parker Center, and the Bradbury Building.[1] Plaintiffs were released at 9:00 p.m. that evening. At each location, plaintiffs gave a “public safety statement”[2] and were subject to an administrative interrogation.

At Central Station, plaintiffs were separated and were appointed an employee representative. Later, plaintiffs were taken from Central Station to Parker Center for photographs and breathalyzer tests. Finally, plaintiffs’ Internal Affairs administrative interviews were conducted at the Bradbury building.

Commander Richard Webb, who is the Commanding Officer of the Department’s Internal Affairs Group, [3] was advised that the public safety statements made by Officers Cepeida, Verduzco, and Quezada at the scene did not provide any useful information. Commander Webb was told that Quezada had unloaded Cepeida’s or Verduzco’s weapons, that an officer had an unloaded weapon on his or her person, and that one or more of the weapons involved in the shooting was in one of the plaintiffs’ cars. Either Verduzco or Cepeida told a responding supervisor that he accidentally discharged his weapon in his vehicle although this was not true. None of the witnesses who called 911 could identify which of the plaintiffs was involved in the shooting, the weapons they used or where the weapons were located. Commander Webb determined to ...


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