Arrestee says $5K payment stops him from suing officer, Ceres PD

etracy@modbee.comSeptember 8, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    Erin Tracy
    Title: Breaking news reporter
    Coverage areas: Breaking news, crime
    Bio: Erin Tracy started working for The Bee in September 2010. She has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University and previously worked at the Daily Democrat in Woodland and the Times-Standard in Eureka.
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    E-mail: etracy@modbee.com

— A burglary suspect said he was lying flat on the ground, face down, and was being handcuffed by an officer when another officer kicked him in the groin.

Ceres police officer Christopher Melton, a nine-year veteran, was charged in July with misdemeanor assault by an officer under the color of authority, stemming from an April 13 dispatch to a reported burglary.

His alleged victim, Daniel Reagan, 26, said during a jailhouse interview Friday that he never was informed that Melton had been charged and that an attorney last month gave him $5,000 for a personal-injury settlement.

The charges against Reagan related to the burglary have since been dropped. He is in jail for violating his parole for an unrelated case.

Ceres police and the district attorney's office, after announcing the charges against Melton last month, refused to release the name of his alleged victim or the circumstances surrounding the incident. But in response to a public records request, Ceres police confirmed Friday that Reagan was taken into custody by Melton on the date of the alleged assault.

Reagan was stopped by officer Ross Bays after he was seen riding his bicycle near the burglary scene in the 1600 block of Evans Road.

The victims of the burglary, Frank Zarate and Maria Williamson, told police a man and woman entered their home, according to Bays' testimony at a preliminary hearing for the case against Reagan in May. The woman went into Williamson's room and assaulted her while the man stayed in the living room, pointed a gun at Zarate and threatened to "put a bullet in his head" if he tried to stop the female suspect, later identified as Amanda Watson. Williamson said Watson assaulted her to prevent her from testifying in a separate criminal case.

Bays testified that as he responded to the apartment, he saw one person running and another riding a bicycle north from the apartment.

The officer followed the man on his bicycle, identified as Reagan, who immediately surrendered when he looked over his shoulder and saw the officer behind him.

"Given the magnitude of the incident, I had my pistol drawn and pointed at him," Bays testified. "He immediately stopped his bike, proned out with … his hands spread and his feet spread. He even made a statement to me, 'I'm done,' laid on the ground and basically waited for us to engage him."

Reagan's defense attorney asked Bays if another officer then approached and kicked his client in the leg.

Bays responded, "There was a subsequent incident that was reported to my administration in regards to that incident. There's an internal investigation that I've been ordered not to speak in regards to. But there was notification made to my department in regards to that arrest."

Reagan said it wasn't his leg but his genitalia that Melton kicked, and then proceeded to press his knees and elbows into the back of his head while he was handcuffed.

"It was like a field goal kick right between my legs; he said it was a distraction kick to the inside thigh," Reagan said.

He said he has a hernia that has worsened since the incident and has suffered anxiety attacks as well.

Reagan said he signed a personal-injury settlement agreement last month for $5,000. He said he didn't understand that the document would preclude him from filing a claim against the officer or the Ceres Police Department; he thought the check was for property seized at the time of his arrest.

"He gave me my check and that's it. … I had already signed the paper, I didn't even read the stupid paper," Reagan said.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Borges said he could not discuss settlements and referred comment to the city attorney, who was not available Friday.

At the conclusion of Reagan's preliminary hearing, the judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on charges of burglary, making criminal threats and intimidating a witness with an enhancement for using a firearm. However, victim Zarate, who identified Rea- gan as the man who pointed a gun at him the night of the incident, recanted the identification when he testified at the preliminary hearing.

The district attorney dropped the charges against Reagan a month later for lack of evidence.

Watson took a deal, pleading no contest to assault with a deadly weapon. The remaining four charges against her were dismissed.

Melton returns to court Nov. 7 for a pretrial hearing. If convicted of the charge against him, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail or prison, according to the state Penal Code. His attorney David Garcia did not return calls for comment on this story.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com of (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime.

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