Clifford Bonnet, pictured at Bazille restaurant before an officer allegedly broke his leg on Oct. 20, 2018, has filed an excessive force lawsuit against San Francisco and the officer. (Courtesy photo)

Formerly homeless man arrested after dispute over steak dinner sues for excessive force

SFPD officer named in lawsuit for alleged attack at restaurant that broke man’s leg

A formerly homeless man is suing San Francisco for excessive force after a police officer allegedly broke his leg during a confrontation over a steak dinner at the Westfield San Francisco Centre.

Clifford Bonnet, 47, filed the lawsuit against The City and Officer Jordan King in federal court last Wednesday alleging that the officer “rushed” him without warning on Oct. 20, 2018 at the Bazille restaurant inside Nordstrom.

Bonnet was celebrating having stable employment with a nonprofit program for the formerly homeless called Urban Alchemy when King allegedly attacked him, according to his attorney, Adante Pointer from the law offices of John Burris.

Bonnet is once again facing the threat of homelessness as a result of his injuries from the incident, Pointer said.

“It essentially turned [his life] upside down,” Pointer said. “You have a person who has struggled to get back on firm footing. In the midst of trying to celebrate that feat, he is disabled in such a way that he couldn’t work.”

The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Meiling Bedard, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office said, “We’ll review the lawsuit thoroughly when we’ve been served with it, and respond accordingly in court.”

The trouble started when Bonnet asked a waiter for a steak knife, according to the lawsuit. Instead, the waiter gave him “an excessively large chef’s knife” that was “unsuitable for dining.”

The waiter then began to “berate” Bonnet, and a restaurant manager asked him to leave before calling security, the lawsuit said. But Bonnet had already paid for his food and, rather than leave, asked for a to-go container.

At some point soon after, King allegedly arrived and told Bonnet to stand up. Bonnet alleges that he complied, standing up with his hands in the air, when King suddenly knocked him to the ground.

“Officer King twisted, restrained and contorted Mr. Bonnet’s body in such a tortuous way that he broke Mr. Bonnet’s left tibia and ankle,” the lawsuit said. “The excruciating pain from Mr. Bonnet’s broken leg on his thin 135-pound frame caused him to pass out.”

King then allegedly forced Bonnet to stand on his broken leg.

Bonnet was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where the lawsuit says it was determined he needed emergency surgery for the injury, but he was given a leg brace instead.

Bonnet was booked into County Jail, where he remained for three days before being released, according to the lawsuit. He then sought treatment at a hospital in Oakland and underwent emergency surgery on his leg.

Clifford Bonnet’s leg after surgery (Courtesy photo)

Jail records show Bonnet was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor resisting arrest, misdemeanor battery of an officer and felony assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

But Bonnet was not formally charged in connection with the incident, according to a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office.

Pointer summed up the case as a situation that spun out of control because Bonnet was “dining while black.” What was a minor dispute over the quality of service resulted in serious injury after the police were called, he said.

“We see this far too often,” Pointer said. “It shouldn’t happen that way.”

Bonnet is seeking unspecified damages. The lawsuit claims he “suffered assault, battery, and excessive force, and unlawful detention.”

King joined the SFPD in September 2007, according to department records.

In April 2018, a video surfaced on social media showing an officer identified by Tenderloin Police Station as King performing life-saving measures on an overdose victim outside City Hall.

“Tenderloin Officer Jordan King seen Monday saving the life of an overdose victim in Civic Center Plaza using Narcan and CPR,” Tenderloin Police Station said on Twitter. “One of 24 [overdose] victims saved by Tenderloin officers with Narcan so far in 2018. He lived.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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