Palo Alto Cop Named in Civil Rights Lawsuit No Longer With City

One of the Palo Alto police officers who's named as a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit is no longer with the department, officials said Thursday.

Sgt. Wayne Benitez, the ranking officer when he and others in uniform forcefully arrested resident Gustavo Alvarez, is no longer employed by the city, as of Sept. 30, according to city officials.

Security video of showed the officers with their guns drawn, kicking down a door. The footage also shows Benitez taking the lead during the arrest.

In the federal lawsuit, Alvarez accuses Benitez of slamming his head into his car window. Alvarez recounted his verbal exchanges with Benitez:

"You think you're a tough guy?" Benitez says as he slams Alvarez's face into the windshield.

"I'm bleeding," Alvarez says.

"You're going to be bleeding a whole lot more," Benitez says.

The arrest was over suspicion of driving with a suspended license. It and a few other charges were dismissed by a judge for lack of evidence last year.

Benitez will still draw a $118,000-a-year pension, according to a report from the Mercury News. Alvarez's attorney says that retirement is important to his case.

"The fact that Sgt. Benitez was able to retire from the agency and draw a pension before anything was actually done by the agency, that shows that the agency is at fault," attorney Cody Salfen said. "It's not just a matter of these individual officers being at fault."

In the suit, Alvarez accuses the officers and the city of violating his civil rights and unfairly targeting him because he’s gay.

The city would not share any further details on Benitez's exit.

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