The City is expected to settle a $495,000 lawsuit with a woman who claimed to be wrongfully arrested by police who thought she was driving a stolen car. (MIKE KOOZMIN/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)

City set to approve wrongful arrest suit settlement

About six years after San Francisco police officers placed a woman at gunpoint over wrongfully suspecting her of driving a stolen Lexus in the Mission, The City is expected to settle the lawsuit she filed for $495,000, city documents show.

Denise Green, who was 45-years-old and working as a Muni driver at the time of the incident, was driving one late night in March 2009 along Mission Street in her 1992 red Lexus. She had just finished picking up her sister from the hospital and dropping her off at the 24th Street BART station.

Police pulled her over on information that her car was stolen, but a police’s automatic license plate reader misidentified her car as a stolen vehicle through the mistake of one digit and officers never checked the plates of the Lexus before pulling her over. The plate number actually read by the camera belonged to a 1999 gray GMC truck, according to court documents.

Officer Alberto Esparza was driving the patrol car at the time with the license plate reader and was unable to make out the actual plate number but had dispatch confirm the plate number identified by the camera was in fact stolen.

Once pulled over by Sgt. Ja Han Kim, Green was treated as a high-risk felony culprit. She “saw numerous police officers with guns pointed at her, and an officer with a shotgun or assault rifle just to her left,” the court document said. She was handcuffed and forced to her knees. Green as well as her vehicle was searched. Ultimately, the police realized their mistake and released her, but not after more than 20 minutes had passed.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, sought damages related to wrongful seizure at gunpoint, violation of constitutional rights and severe emotional distress.

Green’s attorney, Michael Haddad declined to comment on the pending settlement, which is being introduced Tuesday by the City Attorney to the Board of Supervisors for approval. Green remains employed with the transit agency and has since been promoted to a supervisor post. The board returns to legislative session this week after a monthlong summer legislative recess.

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