For release: September 2, 2020
FEDERAL COURT JUDGE DISMISSES CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATION LAWSUIT AGAINST THE COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO AND
THE SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
On August 6, 2020, a federal civil rights violation lawsuit was dismissed against the County of San Bernardino, Sheriff’s Department, a sergeant, and four deputies. This judgement stems from a use of force incident that occurred in the city of Hesperia on May 14, 2018, at the termination of a pursuit. A deputy observed a stolen vehicle occupied with a male driver and female passenger. The deputy attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle, but the driver, Milagro Gonzalez, failed to yield and led deputies on a pursuit for over 12 miles, while driving with the reckless and wanton disregard for the public. For the safety of the public, the pursuit was canceled and the stolen vehicle was followed by Sheriff’s Aviation. Shortly after the pursuit was canceled, Gonzalez crashed the vehicle and fled on foot.
It appeared Gonzalez attempted to carjack a vehicle in a fast food restaurant drive-thru but failed as deputies approached. Gonzalez attempted to enter the restaurant, but good Samaritans grabbed the door preventing him from entering. Gonzalez failed to comply with commands given to him by deputies and resisted arrest when a use of force incident occurred. A deputy and Gonzalez sustained injuries during the arrest. Both were treated for their injuries and released. The investigation revealed that Gonzalez was on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) after he was recently released from prison for vehicle theft and had an active arrest warrant for a drug related offense. After reviewing the case, on May 16, 2018, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Gonzalez for possession of a stolen vehicle and evading police, two felony charges. On March 28, 2019, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to felony evading and was sentenced to two years in state prison.
On August 19, 2019, the County of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the involved personnel were served with a lawsuit alleging multiple federal civil rights violations through Gonzalez’s attorneys, James S. Terrell and Sharon J. Brunner. The allegations included excessive force, failure to provide medical, assault, battery, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Bane Act, as well as a failure to screen, train, and supervise. On July 1, 2020, Terrell and Brunner formally withdrew from the case. For almost a year, the County of San Bernardino and attorney Dennis E. Wagner successfully defended the lawsuit before it was dismissed in favor of San Bernardino County, Sheriff’s Department, and all Sheriff’s personnel.
PRCS was created as a result of California Assembly Bill 109 (AB109), signed in 2011. As part of former Governor Jerry Brown’s Realignment Plan, or Assembly Bill 109, to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court Decision requiring the state to lower its prison population; offenders with non-violent, non-sexual and non-serious convictions will serve reduced sentences in county jails and be placed on local supervision through county probation.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department encourages the public to become informed on civil court cases. State lawsuits can be reviewed at http://www.sb-court.org/divisions/civil-general-information/court-case-information-and-document-sales . To review federal lawsuits, an account can be created on www.pacer.gov. With this account information, cases can be reviewed by any member of the public.
Deputy Report # 191803850
San Bernardino County Civil Court Case # 5:19-cv-00978-RGK-E