Plaintiff claims use of excessive force during arrest for suspected car theft. Defense verdict. San Diego County.


Carlsbad police officers alleged to use excessive force in making arrest of non-English-speaking man. 

The Case

  • Case Name: Jose Luis Barajas Centeno v. City of Carlsbad, Jordan Walker, James Gallivan
  • Court and Case Number: U.S. District Court, Southern District / 3:19-cv-02098-RSH-DEB
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, November 01, 2019
  • Type of Case: Civil Rights
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Robert S. Huie
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jose Luis Barajas Centeno
  • Defendants:
    City of Carlsbad, Jordan Walker
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Less than 1 hr
  • Jury Polls: 8-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Genaro Lara, Attorney at Law, San Diego.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Fozi Dwork & Modafferi, LLP by Golnar Fozi, Daniel Modafferi and Jeremy Dwork, Carlsbad.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant Jordan Walker is a law enforcement officer with the Carlsbad Police Department. On April 27, 2019, at approximately 8:35 p.m., while Officer Walker was responding to a report of a vehicle burglary, he observed plaintiff Jose Luis Barajas Centeno attempting to unlock the door of a white pickup truck using a metal “slim jim” tool.

    Officer Walker informed plaintiff that he would be detained while Officer Walker investigated the reported vehicle burglary.  He was shortly thereafter arrested, during which arrest the claim of excessive force arose.  

    Officer Walker issued plaintiff a citation for obstructing, delaying, or resisting a peace officer, in violation of Penal Code, section 148. Plaintiff sued Officer Walker, Officer Gallivan, and the City of Carlsbad, alleging unlawful arrest and excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and state law. The Court granted summary judgment in favor of Officer Gallivan and the City of Carlsbad. The claims against Officer Walker proceeded to a jury trial. 

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that the contact, detention and arrest were unlawful, and included the use of excessive force.

    Plaintiff did not speak English, and he was physically handicapped.  He claimed that he yelled to the police officers that he was handicapped. He did not understand the officers' orders, and was not given time to comply if he did. Two officers threw him to the ground.  He was arrested without being informed of the reasons for the arrest.   

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That there was no use of excessive force.

    That plaintiff attempted to resist detention by pulling his hands out of Officer Walker’s grasp, leaning his body forward, and attempting to run away. To control plaintiff and prevent his flight, Officer Walker took plaintiff to the ground. Once plaintiff was on the ground, Officer Walker and his partner, defendant officer James Gallivan, ordered plaintiff to put his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed. The order was repeated three times, but plaintiff refused to put his hands behind his back and continued to resist. In an effort to overcome plaintiff’s resistance, Officer Walker used a compliance strike technique, consisting of two blows with Officer Walker’s right knee to plaintiff’s lower back, in quick succession. Immediately thereafter, plaintiff placed his hands behind his back and was handcuffed.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Personal injury to his low back, pain, suffering, emotional distress.

  • Deprivation of personal property seized at time of arrest.

Additional Notes

Per plaintiff's counsel:

The judge refused to allowed plaintiff to testify, and refused to provide a Spanish/English interpreter to assist plaintiff. The judge  prohibited plaintiff's counsel from mentioning the name of George Floyd, and threatened counsel with punishment if he did.