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$82,056 Jury Award in Florida Excessive Force Case

by Christopher Zoukis

A Florida jury has awarded $82,056 to a man who claimed he was beaten by a Hallandale Beach police officer.

Kenneth Salazar, a 37-year-old schoolteacher, was driving in Hallandale Beach October 30, 2009, when he was pulled over by police officer Josue Hernandez for an allegedly improper lane change. During the stop, Hernandez ordered Salazar out of the vehicle, so that he could frisk him. Hernandez allegedly kicked Salazar's legs so far apart that he lost his balance. When Salazar brought his legs together in order to maintain his balance, Hernandez allegedly turned him around, punched him in the face, and kneed him in the chin.

Salazar then fell to the ground, where Hernandez proceeded to rain blows down upon him. After pepper-spraying him, Hernandez handcuffed Salazar and took him to jail. Salazar was charged with resisting arrest without violence and an improper lane change. He was ultimately found not guilty of the charges.

Salazar sued Hernandez as well as the city of Hallandale Beach. Represented by Fort Lauderdale attorney Gary Kollin, Salazar asserted claims of battery, excessive force, false arrest and malicious prosecution. He argued that there was no improper lane change, and that the beating by Hernandez was unprovoked.

In his defense, Hernandez claimed that Salazar had reached into his pocket during the frisk, and that he began to fear for his life. He also denied administering a beating, other than throwing Salazar to the ground, punching him in the chest, and pepper-spraying him.

After a two-day trial, the jury found for Salazar. It found that Hernandez falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted Salazar, and that he violated Salazar's rights by beating him. The jury awarded Salazar $82,056 in compensatory damages, but declined to award punitive damages.

Case: Salazar v. City of Hallandale Beach, et al., United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Division, Case No. 12-cv-61175 (December 18, 2013).

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Related legal case

Salazar v. City of Hallandale Beach



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