BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man and woman have filed a lawsuit alleging an overreaction on the part of Centennial High School officials led to unlawful arrests and excessive force by Kern High School District police.
The suit filed on behalf of Lori Ann Wiley and Charles Wallace Hanson IV names the district, its police force the county and individual officers as defendants and lists a dozen causes of action, including false arrest with a warrant, battery by a peace officer and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A hearing is scheduled in September.
District spokeswoman Erin Briscoe said Tuesday she is unable to comment on pending litigation.
Filed June 1 by Beverly Hills-based attorneys Robert L. Bastian Jr. and David Shaker, the suit has its origins in events that occurred in June of last year.
On June 2, 2021, Wiley and Hanson went to Centennial High to pick up two yearbooks purchased for Wiley’s sons. When they entered the parking lot, an instructional assistant stopped in front of a handicapped parking space they planned to use, the suit says. The suit says Hanson is disabled.
An argument erupted that ultimately involved Wiley, Hanson, KHSD employees, a district police officer and campus supervisor, according to the suit. Eventually, a campus employee gave Wiley the yearbooks and she and Hanson left.
Wiley emailed a complaint the next day saying the instruction assistant flipped her off and other employees and students escalated the incident.
On June 15, KHSD Compliance Officer Alan Paradise sent a letter saying there was no evidence the assistant made the obscene gesture but said she has been directed to use designated district parking spots and not block handicapped parking spaces, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, Officer Michael Whiting, who was at the scene, submitted a report showing Wiley and Hanson “in an extremely unfavorable light” and alleging Hanson challenged a 19-year-old to a fight and made sexually suggestive gestures to the teen’s 17-year-old girlfriend, the suit says.
What actually happened, according to the suit, is the 19-year-old approached Hanson and swore at him before district staff pulled him away.
Whiting also prepared a probable cause declaration to arrest Hanson on suspicion of felony vandalism after the instruction assistant drove home and found her car had been keyed, according to the suit. The probable cause declaration says two witnesses saw Hanson standing by the car, but the suit says there is no mention of that in Whiting’s original offense report.
“The proper inference is that Officer Whiting is conspiring with motivated witnesses and creatively drafting a probable cause declaration designed to give himself and his department cover for arresting and jailing Hanson under a false charge of felony vandalism,” the suit says.
An arrest warrant was issued and Hanson arrested at home July 15 and placed in a patrol vehicle. Hanson, who has type 2 diabetes and post-concussion syndrome and is under a neurologist’s care, had a panic attack in the vehicle, the suit says. Wiley had told officers of Hanson’s medical condition, it says.
Hanson slumped over the seat and became unresponsive, according to the suit, and KHSD Officer Luis Pena, believing Hanson was faking his condition, “began manhandling, striking and beating on him.” Hanson suffered bruising on his chest and arm.
Police took Hanson to jail where a nurse confirmed he was experiencing a medical issue and had him taken to a hospital, the suit says. He was treated for high blood pressure and discharged several hours later then booked into jail.
Released from custody that evening, Hanson was taken back to the hospital for further treatment and discharged early the next day.
A felony vandalism charge and five misdemeanors were filed against Hanson. All charges were dismissed June 1, according to court records.
Three misdemeanors were filed against Wiley — disturbing the peace, disturbing any public school or school meeting and disruption of school activities — but were dismissed in January after a mistrial, records show.
“As a result of defendants’ illegal acts, plaintiffs were subjected to injury, humiliation, fear, pain and suffering . . .,” the suit says, calling defendants’ conduct “malicious, oppressive or in reckless disregard” of plaintiffs’ rights.