A new lawsuit claims Alameda County Sheriff’s Office deputies were the instigators, not heroes, during a violent struggle in Castro Valley in May 2014.
Attorney John Burris, who has also represented the families of Oscar Grant and Mario Woods, filed the suit on Tuesday. According to Burris, two Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a disturbance at the home of his clients Kelly Carter and Willie Tinoifili, and right when they got there, handcuffed his client Kelly Carter and then pointed a gun at her brother Keith Carter.
“Ms. Carter begged the deputies not to kill her brother,” Burris wrote in the suit. “[Deputy Sheriff Ryan Swetavage] turned his rage on Ms. Carter and wielded potentially deadly, unwarranted and violent baton strikes to her head…As a result of the vicious beating, Ms. Carter needed eight staples to close the gaping wound in her head, in addition to suffering from contusions on her arms, legs and face.”
The suit goes on to claim deputies Ryan Swetavage and J. Edwards also struck Tinoifili in the face and body after he told deputies they were unjustified in injuring his family.
This account is vastly different from reports from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office from May 3, 2014. Headlines from the incident hailed one of the deputies as a "hero" after saving his partner in what Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly described as “one of the most violent struggles that an officer can encounter.”
Kelly said deputies had to be hospitalized and required reconstructive facial surgery after being brutally beaten by two men. Deputies responded to a routine disturbance at an apartment in the 2400 block of Grove Way where they found two men involved in a fight, according to Bay City News. Deputies ordered the two men to break up the fight but the men refused and instead turned their aggression toward the deputies.
Articles go on to say that one of the men, Keith Carter, punched one of the deputies in the face and knocked him to the ground, and then lunged at the second deputy and put him in a chokehold, nearly choking him unconscious, and tried to gouge his eye out.
According to deputies, Willie Tinoifili and Kelly Carter also attacked the deputies.
All three were arrested on suspicion of felony assault on a police officer and Tinoifili and Keith Carter were arrested for attempted murder on a police officer.
Eventually, all charges against Kelly Carter were dismissed. Tinoifili spent seven days in Alameda County Jail for assault, and is on probation for five years. Keith Carter is currently serving an 11-year sentence in San Quentin after pleading guilty to assault on a peace officer.
In the lawsuit, Burris writes, “Tellingly, in his interview with Alameda Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff Jason Hawks, Deputy Swetavage fails to report that he struck Ms. Carter in the head with his baton. This action seeks to recover damages for the violation of Mr. Tinofili and Ms. Carter’s rights.”