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City Reaches $3.2 Million Settlement in Ballew Case

Published on Monday, March 27, 2023 | 12:59 pm
Screengrabs from a passerby’s cellphone video during the violent November 9, 2017 encounter with Pasadena police in which Altadenan Christopher Ballew suffered a broken leg and other injuries but was never charged with having committed a crime.

According to a joint statement released by the City and a local attorney, a settlement has been reached in the case of a violent 2017 arrest at an Altadena gas station that left a man with a broken leg.

The City will be paying Chris Ballew $3.2 million in exchange for the dismissal of a federal civil rights lawsuit.

“We’re glad we can put this behind us and move forward,” Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian told Pasadena Now.

The settlement was reached after extensive negotiations through a mediator, retired
United States Magistrate Judge Carla Woehrle, and has been approved by all necessary parties.

On Nov. 9, 2017, Ballew suffered numerous injuries during his arrest.
He was detained for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer at a gas station on Fair Oaks Avenue and Woodbury Road by officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan.

The officers were working the gang unit five years ago when they saw Ballew driving north on Fair Oaks Avenue and made a U-turn to initiate a traffic stop for excessive tint on his windows.

After the officers confronted Ballew, the incident quickly spiraled out of control.
In cellphone video that emerged later, Ballew, then 21, can be seen wrestling with Esparza and Lujan for control of a police baton, and then being forced to the ground, punched and struck repeatedly with the metal baton while he shouted at the officers to stop as they overpowered him and handcuffed him on the ground.

Ballew was struck on the head several times with fists and on the legs with the metal baton. His head was slammed into the asphalt. He suffered a broken fibula, bloody facial injuries, and deep gashes on his legs.

Attorney John Burton filed the lawsuit against both officers, their supervisor, Sergeant Timothy Bundy, and former Chief of Police Philip Sanchez, as well as the city itself.

Since the incident, the department has instituted training on implicit bias and officers consult with a psychologist that explains what goes on in the brain during use-of-force incidents.

Officers are now required to take a procedural justice course.

An investigation cleared Esparza and Zachary in 2021.

At one point during the incident, Ballew grabbed an officer’s baton. Esparza pulled out his gun as Lujan and Ballew struggled for the baton until Ballew released it after he was struck by Lujan.

“When he [Lujan] was holding me down at the back of my neck, I was wondering if I was going to die,” Ballew told the Pasadena Weekly in December 2017. “I kept thinking about the worst thing they could do next and they kept doing it. I could have died. He [Esparza] pulled out the gun, but he didn’t pull the trigger.”

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