Lawsuit Accuses Sacramento Deputy of Excessive Force

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SACRAMENTO --

A Sacramento County sheriff's deputy is at the center of a lawsuit for allegedly using excessive force on several suspects.

Deputy Paul Pfeifer has been named in court documents for hitting several suspects with flashlights over the past six years.

Most recently, Pfeifer was captured on cell phone video hitting one man, 51-year-old John Reyes, with a flashlight while he was on the ground.

That video was taken by a witness Michael White at the intersection of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Landis Avenue in December 2014.

According to Reyes' attorney, Stewart Katz, that video was taken after his client was pepper sprayed and tasered.

"After the pepper spray, John staggered back a little bit,  (Pfeifer) tasers him with the darts and then as he goes to the ground, that's pretty much where the video starts," Katz said. "We needed to take it to court because the county wasn't ready to fully acknowledge what they did was wrong and that they have an officer who seems to be out of control."

Katz said the altercation started when his client asked Pfeifer to move his squad car off the sidewalk. It was a request the deputy ignored.

"(My client) followed that up with a less polite way and a gesture," Katz told FOX40, referring to his client's middle finger.

Sacramento County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Jason Ramos said he cannot comment on pending litigation, but that Pfeifer is still on active duty, now working as a detective.

Ramos said Pfeifer's change in position is unrelated to the lawsuit. Ramos also said using a flashlight as a weapon is not against the department's policy.

"There's a certain number of conditions that may make it more practical than a longer baton for example, say in close quarters, or if it's more at the ready than something else," Ramos said.

Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness also cautions the public to not take the video White shot at face value. McGinness himself questions Reyes' behavior, character and motives.

"Had the person complied with the lawful directions of the officer, there would have been no force used what-so-ever," McGinness said.

Court records over the years show Reyes has a dozen or so non-violent and drug related cases filed against him in Sacramento County.

"Ask yourself the question, how many times has your behavior been so bad that the police were called," McGinness said.

Katz does not deny his client has had run-ins with the law, but he said that doesn't excuse or justify Pfeifer's actions.

"Most officers in the course of the year may never even use force once. And the point is, the officer is supposed to be trained to deal with people who may act in ways that are superficially inappropriate," Katz said.

Katz also said he is aware of two other incidents where deputy Pfeifer used his flashlight to attack suspects.

Just three months before the December incident, Pfeifer allegedly used a flashlight to hit a suspect in a stolen vehicle, according to Katz.

Katz said he has obtained dashboard camera video of that incident from the sheriff's department and will use it as evidence in his case.

While Ramos said the sheriff's department has conducted its own investigation into both incidents, White told FOX40 Sunday no investigator or employee from the sheriff's department ever contacted him about what he saw.