San Diego police headquarters. Photo credit: @sandiegopolicedepartment, via Facebook

More than four years after a San Diego Police Department detective body slammed Gregory McNally at a Metropolitan Transit System station, the San Diego City Council will pay out $2.5 million in an excessive use-of-force settlement Tuesday.

On July 8, 2016, a group of plainclothes SDPD vice detectives were outside the Fashion Valley MTS transit center when a phone charger landed near them. The officers reported hearing a loud noise and felt they were under attack. The group entered the station and found McNally, who had just exited a trolley. They then ordered him to get on the ground. McNally, returning home after a night with friends, did not immediately comply, claiming later he was confused by the order from a plainclothes police officer.

San Diego Police Det. Daniel Riis proceeded to pepper spray McNally in the face before picking him up and slamming him to the ground. The slam broke two of McNally’s teeth, injured his jaw and caused nerve damage. The incident was captured on station security cameras.

According to court documents, after McNally was handcuffed, another person admitted they had thrown the phone charger. That person was not charged. McNally was arrested and accused of resisting arrest and being intoxicated in public. City prosecutors declined to file charges.

Nearly two years later, on June 19, 2018, McNally filed a civil suit against Riis for his injuries. Defense attorneys for Riis tried to have the video of the incident thrown out as evidence, but a judge allowed it, citing the fact authorities often use video from similar station cameras to prosecute their cases.

After a weeklong trial that ended last November, the jury concluded McNally was the victim of false arrest and excessive force. The jury awarded a little more than $1.5 million in damages to McNally. His lawyers then filed a motion for litigation costs and attorney fees to the tune of nearly $1 million.

San Diego will pay the $2.5 million settlement from its public liability funds.

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