BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A former assistant chief of the Bakersfield Police Department said he was forced out of law enforcement because he cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office investigation of a deadly shooting by the son of the then-Bakersfield police chief.
And that’s just one of several big allegations in a bombshell lawsuit filed by former Assistant Chief Evan Demestihas. His attorney calls it a whistleblower suit.
In the last three years, Demestihas, 44, has been suspended, fired, re-instated, demoted, and suspended again – all in retaliation for working with state watchdogs, his suit said.
The police department attempted to force his now-ex-wife to make false allegations, he said in the suit. He said the department’s harassment was so determined and persistent that the ex-wife finally had to hire a lawyer to get detectives to leave her alone.
He said former Police Chief Lyle Martin was known as “Lyin’ Lyle.”
Demestihas said officers who supported him were threatened to remain silent.
A spokesman said Tuesday the City of Bakersfield and the police department had no comment on the suit.
Attempts to reach Martin through the police department Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
It all started in 2017, Demestihas said in the suit, when the California Attorney General’s Office began a long, detailed investigation into civil rights violations by the Bakersfield Police Department.
Demestihas, then a 20-year veteran of the force, was chosen as liaison between the BPD and the Attorney General’s Office.
A major focus of the state investigation was officer-involved shootings.
One of those shootings was by Officer Warren Martin, son of then-Police Chief Lyle Martin.
The BPD ruled that Nov. 4, 2017 fatal shooting was justified, but Demestihas said he received information from the Attorney General’s Office in 2019 about “potential violations of the law,” according to the suit.
Based on those concerns, the Attorney General’s Office planned to re-examine the shooting by the chief’s son, Demestihas told his superiors, including then-Chief Lyle Martin, the suit says.
Demestihas said what happened next was retaliation for his cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office.
On Sept. 4, 2019, after dinner and cocktails, Demestihas was concerned his then-wife had too much to drink and shouldn’t be driving, the suit said.
The argument that followed drew the attention of bystanders, who called police.
Surveillance video shows Ms. Demestihas screaming for help as bystanders shouted to others to call police.
Bakersfield Police investigated and Demestihas was suspended – with pay – from his $143,000-a-year job.
BPD detectives “ … began hounding Ms. Demestihas, who repeatedly informed them that Demestihas did not, in any manner whatsoever, harm her or threaten to harm her,” the suit said.
“Ms. Demestihas told them she was not a victim, that Demestihas didn’t do anything wrong, that the police department was trying to frame him and that Demestihas did not hit her and never has,” according to the suit.
“I was harassed for weeks,” Ms. Demestihas said in a letter to the police department quoted in the suit. “I finally had to have a law firm contact [the city] and ask them to leave me alone.”
She complained to a police lieutenant that she was being pressured to tell a false story, the suit says.
The lieutenant told his captain, who threatened the lieutenant to remain quiet, the suit says.
Detectives wanted felony domestic abuse charges against Demestihas.
The Kern County District Attorney’s office recused itself because of its ongoing and close relationship with the Bakersfield Police Department.
The case went to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Hanford, Calif.
In August 2020 – almost a year after the incident — prosecutors in Kings County declined to file charges. The Kern County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute. The state Attorney General’s office refused to get involved.
But Demestihas remained on paid leave while the BPD conducted an internal affairs investigation.
In October 2021, more than two years after the incident, the City of Bakersfield gave notice that Demestihas was fired. It cut off his pay and health benefits. Detectives came to his house and took his badge and gun.
That dismissal had to go through the Police Civil Service Commission. The commission ruled against the City of Bakersfield and in favor of Demestihas.
Instead, it demoted him two ranks to lieutenant.
But, the suit said, Demestihas is still not back to work.
The suit said after the Civil Service hearing, Demestihas was served with a memo stripping him of all law enforcement powers, forbidding him from identifying himself as a police officer or from coming to the police station.
The suit does not seek a specific amount, but asks for compensation for future lost wages and for pain and suffering.