A Concord man is suing the off-duty Vallejo police officer who pulled a gun on him during an August 2018 argument outside of a pizzeria as he was on his way to his son's birthday party.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court, alleges Vallejo Officer David McLaughlin used excessive force when he “unlawfully brandished his gun” before taking Santiago Hutchins to the ground and striking the man repeatedly in the head. Vallejo has not formally filed a response.
The incident took place in the middle of the day on Aug. 11, 2018, in the parking lot of Rocco’s Ristorante Pizzeria at the Encina Grande Shopping Complex. A video captured by an onlooker - and first reported by 2 Investigates - shows McLaughlin dressed in shorts and a white T-shirt, pointing a gun at Hutchins, who had his hands raised above his head.
According to the lawsuit, as the two men passed each other there was “a tense exchange,” over nothing substantive. Both Hutchins and Walnut Creek police, who investigated the incident, described it as an escalation with both men posturing, “What are you looking at?”
At some point, McLaughlin, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, then identified himself as a police officer and pointed his weapon at the man.
McLaughlin then allegedly said Hutchins would be charged with a crime and taken to jail.McLaughlin then ordered Hutchins to get on his knees before the sheriff’s deputy, also off-duty, comes up behind Hutchins and takes him to the ground, the lawsuit alleges.
“Immediately after plaintiff Mr. Hutchins was on the ground, defendant officer McLaughlin began to intentionally target his head and other areas with repeated fist strikes,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant McLaughlin also slammed plaintiff’s head on the asphalt multiple times.”
Hutchins also alleges that he was never interviewed by the Internal Affairs department despite filing a claim. McLaughlin was cleared of any wrongdoing in June, the lawsuit states. He has since returned to work on a limited duty status, Vallejo police told 2 Investigates in April. Questions regarding his current work status weren’t responded to as of Friday morning.
McLaughlin is the same police officer seen in a viral video clip recorded Jan. 22 of a traffic stop in Vallejo. Adrian Burrell, a Marine veteran, said he was assaulted by McLaughlin and suffered a concussion just for filming the officer from his front porch.
Some of the encounter was captured on video, and Burrell, 28, posted the encounter to Facebook and provided it to Bay City News. He has retained civil rights attorney John Burris, who called the case "egregious" and said the officer's use of force was "unnecessary and unreasonable."
Since these two incidents, the city of Vallejo has invited community relations help from the U.S. Department of Justice and has hired an independent firm to assess its police department.