Parents say son falsely arrested, file suit

Claiming their 14-year-old son was falsely arrested in a beating case and locked up for more than two weeks before being exonerated, a family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of San Mateo.

Kasitalia “Gus” Naufahu and Luisa Asinate Pole Naufahu, residents of San Mateo who are representing themselves, filed the $2 million suit in San Mateo County Superior Court on March 11.

The Naufahus, who run a tutoring program for Pacific Islander youth in the city, claim that on April 26, 2007, their son was falsely arrested for knocking someone unconscious with a punch after two eyewitnesses put him at the scene. The family claims police arrested the boy despite two eyewitnesses later failing to pick him out of a photo lineup and despite a third witness fingering a different suspect.

Charges were dropped against the boy after another suspect reportedly turned himself in, according to the lawsuit. City officials said another person has been charged in the case but would not name the suspect.

San Mateo city attorney Shawn Mason said the family filed the lawsuit after the city denied their claim.

“We believed there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Police Department. The officers did not witness the incident and relied on the statement of an eyewitness. He was not detained for any other reasons than a good faith belief that he was the assailant,” Mason said.

Just before his arrest, the boy had gathered with church members mourning a family friend’s death, according to the lawsuit. He had left to walk to a store in downtown San Mateo with friends, but was still many blocks away from where the crime occurred, the lawsuit stated. He spent 16 days at Hillcrest Juvenile Hall, according to the lawsuit.

The San Mateo Police Department, Chief Susan Manheimer and one of the arresting officers, J. Henley, are also named in the suit.

The lawsuit is the family’s second against the city. The boy’s parents, his brother and grandfather are currently suing in federal court, claiming the boy’s civil rights were violated after police searched his room on April 20, 2006, without permission. It is uncertain why the police searched the room.

In their March 11 lawsuit, the Naufahus allege that Henley falsified a police report and lied about their son’s involvement under oath, that police did not have probable cause to arrest their son, ignored evidence of his innocence and falsely imprisoned him.

Aisake Naufahu, a relative of the family’s, filed suit last year against the police department, claiming he was the victim of racial profiling during a traffic stop. That case has not been settled, Mason said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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