Police officer who shot Nida accused of 'excessive force'

DOWNEY - An attorney representing Michael Nida, the unarmed man shot and killed by Downey Police last October, released video footage to the Downey Beat that allegedly shows the same officer that shot Nida displaying "excessive force" during an arrest in July.The footage was shot by a police dash cam early July 15 and shows two officers taking down Miguel Macias, who was suspected of drunk driving. After exiting his vehicle, police say Macias ignored seven verbal orders to get on the ground. In the video, Officer Steve Gilley, identified as the officer who shot Nida last October, tackles Macias to the ground as he and another officer attempt to apply the handcuffs. The district attorney's office charged Macias with illegal possession of brass knuckles and interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties, police say. Charges were ultimately dropped after a judge ruled police lacked probable cause to stop Macias. Downey Police disagreed with the judge's ruling, claiming they received a 911 call identifying Macias as a suspect in a fight. Police also say Macias was driving erratically and failed to yield to officers. Macias is now suing the city of Downey. He is represented by the same lawyer who represents the Nida family. Here is the full statement released by Downey Police concerning the Macias arrest: "This videotape captures one view of circumstances resulting in a suspect's arrest at 2:50 a.m. on July 15, 2011, in Downey. In this incident, the officers were dealing with an intoxicated, uncooperative resisting suspect who was believed to have been in a fight and then got in a vehicle and, while attempting to evade officers, almost struck a patrol car head on. When directed to get down on the ground he chose to continue toward an officer with his arms outstretched in what was perceived as a threat by the back-up officer approaching from the rear. The force used in response to the suspect's resistance was reasonable. With regards to the July 15, 2011, incident in the 8500 block of Fontana Street, the following facts are clear: Responding to a 9-1-1 call about a fight, an officer on the scene saw a truck fitting the description of the suspect's vehicle stopped in the street in front of a residence. As the suspect drove away, the officer activated his patrol car overhead lights but the suspect failed to stop. Instead, the suspect steered into a driveway and then backed out like he was going to turn the truck towards the officer's vehicle. The suspect pulled the truck forward again and then backed out, driving once again in the original direction with the officer following the truck with overhead patrol lights still activated. The officer at this point activated the patrol car siren, however, the suspect still failed to comply and stop the truck. At the intersection of Fontana Street and Patton Road, the suspect made a U-turn, moving past the first officer and driving directly at a second officer's vehicle, which forced that officer to reverse his vehicle. When the suspect's vehicle was boxed in between two patrol cars, the second officer ordered the suspect to get out of the truck six times, before he complied. As both officers repeatedly (seven times) ordered the suspect to get on the ground the suspect continued towards the first officer failing to comply with the officers' commands. The second officer, observing the suspect from behind, believed that the suspect was going to assault his partner. That officer grabbed the suspect by the shoulders and took him to the ground with the assistance of the first officer. Officers continued to give the suspect verbal commands to get on the ground. The suspect was physically resisting both officers, using his arms in a push up position and tightening up his arms as officers tried to handcuff him. After the suspect is handcuffed the second officer is observed grasping the back of the suspect's neck and telling him to shut up. The suspect's actions, speech and appearance led officers to believe that he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, the circumstances of the arrest did not provide an opportunity for field sobriety tests. At the station the suspect was belligerent and combative and no breathalyzer test was conducted. The District Attorney's Office charged the suspect with illegal possession of brass knuckles and interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties. The case was ultimately dismissed by the judge, citing lack of probable cause for the stop. Downey Police Department believes there was an obvious legal basis for the stop of the suspect given the 9-1-1 call identifying the driver of the truck as the suspect in a fight, his erratic driving and his failure to yield to the activated lights and siren. The man is now pursuing a legal claim against the city. He is represented by a lawyer who also is suing the City on behalf of the family of Michael Nida, a South Gate man who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in October 2011 - a tragic shooting that involved the same officer seen in the July 15, 2011, videotape, which is now circulating with media. A District Attorney's investigation into that shooting is continuing. The conduct of the arresting officers as seen and heard in the videotape resulted in an internal review that concluded the officers' use of force was reasonable in response to the suspect's resistance. However, one officer's language and demeanor, while influenced by events immediately preceding the arrest and the suspect's conduct, is unfortunate and inconsistent with the officer's history of professionalism. However, these two incidents are completely separate events. An officer's conduct must be judged on a case-by-case basis and only after considering the totality of circumstances known to the officer at the moment their decisions are being made.

********** Published: April 12, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 52