A Californian police officer smashed a gay man against a car’s windshield – hurling homophobic insults at him and mocking his voice – is now retired and collecting around $100,ooo per year from his pension pot.
The former Palo Alto police sergeant was swamped with criticism when video footage capturing the incident went viral in April, The Mercury News reported.
Wayne Benitez was placed on administrative leave earlier this year after the video surfaced, state officials said, and retired on 30 September.
Scrutiny bubbled again, however, when it emerged that the former officer is collecting a monthly pension of $9,866 — earning him an annual retirement package of about $118,600, according to Amy Morgan, information officer for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Benitez joined the city’s police department in 2000 and previously served as union president of the Peace Officers Association.
Gustavo Alvarez filed a federal lawsuit against the Palo Alto Police Department in April, alleging that several officers used excessive force when he was pulled over and arrested in February 2018.
Alvarez had been allegedly driving with a suspended license, leading to law enforcement to break his door down, cuff him, slam him against the car and make him bleed.
The only evidence of the attack is surveillance footage from outside Alvarez’s house that he set up in front of his residence. Officers had removed their body cameras and parked their cars facing away from his house, preening being on tape from their dash cameras.
According to the 77-page complaint, officer Christopher Conde was on patrol that day when he spotted Alvarez’s car. He was aware that Alvarez had had his licence suspended a month before, so followed in pursuit.
Although, he was unaware if Alvarez was even in the vehicle.
Soon after, he went to Alvarez’s mobile home telling him he was being arrested for driving without documentation.
When Alvarez asks the officer if he saw him driving, Conde admitted that he didn’t. Alvarez then went back inside his home.
After telling officers he was coming out, officers busted gay man’s door down and dragged him outside.
As a result, Conde called for backup – including Benitez – to order Alvarez outside his home. Despite informing officers he was coming out, they busted his door, dragged him outside and cuffed him.
His head was repeatedly smashed into his car windshield, as the sergeant asked: “You think you’re a tough guy now?”
“You’re going to be bleeding a whole lot more.”
“See how well they behave when we put our foot down?” Benitez said to another officer after Alvarez was back in the squad car. “That’s what we don’t do enough of,” the mic recording showed.
Benitez added “He’s gay” before calling the suspect a “frickin’ low life”. He ordered for Alvarez’s car to be towed and proceeded to raise his voice to mock him while mentioning Alvarez’s sexuality.
Furthermore, Alvarez alleged that the incident was provoked partly because he is gay.
Suspect’s attorney: ‘To think that taxpayers are still rewarding him is incomprehensible at this point in time and history.’
Alvarez spent two weeks in Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of driving under influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license and resisting arrest.
But all of those charges were later dismissed by the Santa Clara County Superior County due to insufficient evidence.
“Obviously the police department and the city of Palo Alto thus far have failed to step up and condemn the actions of these officers,” Alvarez’s attorney Cody Salfen told Mercury News.
“To think that taxpayers are still rewarding him is incomprehensible at this point in time and history.”
“This speaks volumes to our claims that the agency suffers from a culture of violence, a culture of covering things up, a culture of failing to adhere to their constitutional duties as police officers to the point that they are breaking their own policies and therefore, the law,” Salfen said.
Efforts to contact Benitez proved unsuccessful, The Mercury News reported.