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Abusive Cop in Vallejo, California, Has Cost the Taxpayers More $500,000 in Settlements; Latest Brutality Victim Is a Marine Veteran and Stanford Grad

by Jo Ellen Nott

The City of Vallejo, California, agreed to pay Adrian L. Burrell $300,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought after Officer David McLaughlin tackled him and smacked his head against a porch post of his home in January of 2019.

McLaughlin had pulled over Burrell’s cousin on a traffic stop in front of Burrell’s home when the Stanford graduate and filmmaker began to record the officer using his cellphone. McLaughlin ordered Burrell to stop filming even though Burrell was at least 20 to 30 feet away on the porch. When Burrell declined to stop filming the actions of the Vallejo cop, McLaughlin arrested him, accusing Burrell of resisting him.

According to the lawsuit, McLaughlin swung Burrell to the ground smacking Burrell’s head against a pillar of the porch, which resulted in a concussion, an injury to his right eye, and bumps, bruises, and pain. The brutality was a rights violation in itself, but considering that multiple federal appeals courts have upheld a broad First Amendment right to film law enforcement, the interaction between Burrell and McLaughlin should never have occurred.

McLaughlin then put Burrell in the back of his squad car but released him when he learned Burrell was a Marine veteran. Burrell has degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute and Stanford University. In 2022, Burrell was a visiting artist at Stanford, teaching undergraduate courses in comparative studies. He will use the settlement money to seed a non-profit organization to help families affected by police violence.

McLaughlin will likely continue to brutalize residents he has sworn to protect and serve if his past actions are any indication of future results, according to TechDirt’s Tim Cushing. In 2021, the city of Vallejo paid a $270, 698 settlement to Santiago Hutchins for an incident with McLaughlin in a parking lot where the off-duty McLaughlin held Hutchins at gunpoint after an argument. When on-duty officers arrived, they restrained Hutchins on the ground, allowing McLaughlin to viciously punch and elbow Hutchins, all caught on cellphone video.

In 2014, McLaughlin was sued for alleged civil rights violations against Frederick Cooley, but the case was dismissed when Cooley died. McLaughlin has also shot two suspects in separate incidents since joining the Vallejo police force.

McLaughlin is a particularly expensive abusive cop as Cushing notes. Since 2014, McLaughlin has cost the taxpayers of Vallejo more than half a million in settlements.

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