Two students file legal claim against Bakersfield police

Law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced Wednesday they had filed a legal claim against the City of Bakersfield, alleging the police department engaged in a wrongful arrest, excessive force and racial profiling.

They're pursuing the claims on behalf of two Bakersfield College students involved in an incident with police in December. The legal action was announced Tuesday evening, and a press conference was held Wednesday at the law office.

Timothy Grismore, 21, and Xavier Hines, 19, were walking on Valhalla Drive near West High School on Dec. 5 when they were stopped by officers in an unmarked car. When the uniformed officers got out of the car, Grismore and Hines say they questioned why they needed to provide their names. That's when Grismore and Hines say police pulled out a taser, ordered Hines to the ground and began beating Grismore with a baton. He would later be taken to Kern Medical for several stitches.

Both students were jailed overnight on suspicion of jaywalking and resisting arrest. The district attorney never filed any charges against either of them.

Bakersfield police declined to comment on camera Wednesday about the claim, but their account, outlined in a report obtained by Eyewitness News from the city attorney's office, tells a vastly different story.

The arresting officers write that the street was dark and that they shined a light on the two students from their car. Immediately, police say Grismore began shouting obscenities and calling the officers pigs.

The officers add that when they got out of the car and ordered Grismore and Hines to stop, the two began walking away faster.

The officers document injuries that Grismore suffered during what they called a struggle to search him.

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“There was no reason whatsoever for these two young men to be stopped, let alone assaulted and detained overnight,” attorney Neil K. Gehlawat said in a press release. “But perhaps what is most troubling is that the actions of these officers that night appeared to be racially motivated. The officers did what they did because they believed that Timothy and Xavier were affiliated with a gang – a conclusion we feel they reached only because the two young men were black.”

Representatives from the Bakersfield NAACP and Black Panther party were in attendance at the city council meeting Wednesday. Patrick Jackson, the leader of the local NAACP, asked the city council during public comment to fund body cameras for the police department and to form a civilian police oversight committee.

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