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    Psychological torture by Fontana police shakes public confidence
    • May 29, 2024

    As first reported by the Southern California News Group’s Tony Saavedra, the city of Fontana has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit over the degrading and unconscionable actions of their city’s police officers.

    In August 2018, Thomas Perez Jr. called police to report his father missing. Thomas Perez Sr. had gone on a walk with the family dog. After about ten minutes, the dog returned to home, but the father was missing.

    Thomas Perez Jr. was then taken to an interrogation room, where detectives grilled him for many hours on end with accusations that he had in fact killed his father.

    According to the lawsuit, Sergeant David Janusz told Perez “your father is dead,” that his body had been found, and that “he has a toe tag on him.”

    The officers also brought in the family dog and told Perez to “say goodbye” to the dog because it would be euthanized as a stray.

    “Because of [the officers’] actions in telling [Mr. Perez] that his father had been murdered, accusing [Mr. Perez] of committing that murder, brutally interrogating Plaintiff for hours, seizing [Mr. Perez’s] possessions, and sending [Mr. Perez’s] dog off to be euthanized,” the lawsuit explains, he “suffered extreme emotional distress.”

    The officers had been told he had been prescribed medications for “depression, stress, asthma, and high blood pressure,” but took their time in allowing him to take his medications.

    Amid this psychological torture, Perez offered a false confession that he had in fact murdered his father.

    Perez Sr., it turned out, was alive and was at the airport going to visit his daughter.

    “Mentally torturing a false confession out of Tom Perez, concealing from him that his father was alive and well, and confining him in the psych ward because they made him suicidal, in my 40 years of suing the police I have never seen that level of deliberate cruelty by the police,” Jerry Steering, Perez’s attorney, told Saavedra.

    The case was settled for $900,000 in part out of concern the city would prevail thanks to the horrific doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which provides abusive police officers protections from civil liability.

    The Perez family deserves every penny and more after their horrific treatment by the Fontana police department.

    Saavedra notes that three of the four officers named in the lawsuit continue to work for the city, while another has since retired. All, of course, are highly compensated and stand to earn lucrative pensions.

    According to Transparent California, Janusz, for instance, received total pay of $244,386 in 2022 and $75,092 in benefits, not counting his total pension debts to taxpayers.

    The officers should feel deep shame for the rest of their lives for what they have done. Thanks to them, public confidence in local law enforcement takes another hit.

    Some day, Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court must eliminate qualified immunity from the books. No one should be above the law. Officers who unconstitutionally trample the rights of the people should be held accountable directly for what they chose to do.

    ​ Orange County Register