A federal judge this month denied the city’s motion to dismiss a case against two of its police officers, who are accused of using excessive force when they entered a hit-and-run suspect’s home and pointed their guns at him in 2003.
Bruce Hopkins, 47, claims that former San Carlos police Officers Armand Bonvicino and David Buelow went too far when they aimed their weapons at him before arresting him at home on Aug. 22, 2003. They came to his house after he left the scene of a minor traffic accident and the victim, Waheeda Talib, notified police.
The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office dropped hit-and-run charges against Hopkins in November 2004, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Hopkins filed suit in July 2005, accusing the officers of wrongdoing for entering his home and drawing their guns.
“Cases like this are very important, even though they’re not a shooting and they’re not particularly sexy,” said Anthony Boskovich, the attorney representing Hopkins. “All it would take is … a report from someone who doesn’t like you, and that puts the keys to your house into police hands.”
San Carlos officials maintain that Bonvicino and Buelow were acting appropriately when they entered Hopkins’ basement apartment and drew their weapons.
“Here’s someone who left the scene of a hit-and-run and had been drinking,” San Carlos City Attorney Robert Lanzone said.
Mayor Tom Davids said he has not seen any complaints against San Carlos police in his 11 years on the City Council.
“Our officers are well-trained; they know what they’re doing,” Davids said.
Hopkins drank three beers at the American Legion on the afternoon of Aug. 22, 2003, before driving home, according to court documents. He was in a minor collision with Talib, went home, and drank five more beers before the officers arrived within 11 minutes of Talib’s call. His blood alcohol measured 0.20, more than double the legal limit.Hopkins was convicted of a misdemeanor DUI in 1991, his third such conviction, according to Wagstaffe. A felony DUI charge against him in 1991 was dropped.
Hopkins is seeking up to $8 million in damages to compensate for medical, legal and psychiatric fees associated with the incident, as well as lost wages. Hopkins was laid off from his job as a school bus driver after the 2003 arrest and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Boskovich said.
Hopkins’s claim is scheduled for a federal court hearing April 30, although Lanzone said the city would likely appeal Judge Jeffrey S. White’s refusal to dismiss the case.