News - May 25, 2011

Menlo Park police raided wrong home, residents say

by Sandy Brundage

Two East Palo Alto addresses differed only by a single number, but that number led Menlo Park police to raid the wrong house, according to a claim filed against both cities by the home's residents.

The claim states that Menlo Park police operating within East Palo Alto conducted an early morning search on Nov. 2, 2010, that left the home's residents battered and emotionally traumatized.

Represented by attorney Edward Aljouny, the three residents — Carlos Nava, Melissa Verduzco and their 2-year-old daughter — are asking the cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto to jointly pay $500,000 for damages.

Filed on April 27, the claim describes Mr. Nava's being slammed to the ground, kneed, and punched by "a Sergeant Cowans," while others, "including Det. Chris Sample" pointed guns at Ms. Verduzco and her child.

The document also says the officers have harassed Mr. Nava upon seeing him in public after the incident and that he now stutters as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Without judging its validity, the city of East Palo Alto rejected the claim at its May 17 meeting, but noted that did not prevent court action.

Menlo Park is still reviewing the claim, City Attorney Bill McClure said, and typically takes action within 45 to 60 days of the filing. Its council may not get a say in the disposition.

"Generally claims are not presented to the City Council unless there is a specific reason to do so — our policy is to have the City Attorney, the City's outside claims adjustor and the City's internal risk manager review and act on claims, either settling them, potentially holding a closed session if we need/want to review and advise council and obtain any kind of direction or authority, or issuing a denial," he said in an email to the Almanac.

The police department referred all questions to Mr. McClure.


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