Last April, the Ukiah Police Department came under scrutiny after footage emerged of officers using what they referred to as “distraction strikes” to subdue a nude, mentally-ill man named Gerardo Magdaleno on a Ukiah street. The event prompted protests locally, press nationally, and the promise of an independent investigation that would examine the incident.
Court documents indicate that Magdaleno was awarded a $211,000 settlement just five days ago for the pain and injuries endured during the circumstance.show_temp
A press release issued by the City of Ukiah yesterday said that a group called Independent Investigative Consultants reviewed the “tactics used to restrain the suspect” to determine whether those tactics aligned with department policy. The investigation concluded that “there is no sustained finding that Ukiah PD actions violated the Department’s use of force policy.”
Izaak Schwaiger, the attorney that represented Magdaleno in a civil lawsuit filed against multiple officers of the Ukiah Police Department and former Chief Justin Wyatt, questioned the reliability of the outside agency employed to conduct the “independent investigation.”
Schwaiger argued that any entity being paid by the City of Ukiah, the same governing body charged with the oversight of the Ukiah Police Department, has a monetary interest in providing conclusions that support their patron.
Not only is the outside agency’s objectivity questionable to Schwaiger, but he also questioned the timing of the results being made public. He found it “very strange” that earlier this week the civil suit associated with Gerardo Magdaleno’s use of force incident was settled.
An administration motion filed in the United State District Court of Northern District of California indicated in early February Gerardo’s brother Pedro felt it was time to settle the civil suit filed against Ukiah Police Department officers because Gerardo’s “life circumstances had deteriorated.” This resulted in a settlement of $211,000 being awarded and $126,600 ultimately going to Gerardo after attorney fees. The funds will be distributed once the settlement has been approved by the judge.
Schwaiger maintained the City of Ukiah strategically waited to release the results of this “independent investigation” so the findings could not affect the civil litigation.
His condemnation of the investigation’s conclusion was pointed: “This is totally dishonest. Shameful. The city is hiding behind the procedure. If you watch the videos, if that is within policy, anything is within policy. The whole department needs a total top to bottom rehaul.”
On April 1, 2021, Gerardo Magdaleno was wandering Ukiah’s South State Street nude and delirious. Responding to reports of the naked man, body camera footage shows the first officer on scene began commanding Magdaleno to get down on the ground within seconds of exiting his squad car.
Body camera footage would show the officer continue attempts to order Magdaleno to the ground and then deploy a taser after 27 seconds of interacting with the mentally-ill man.
By the end of the incident, Magdaleno would be pepper-sprayed, tased, and struck multiple times within the scrum of three officers.
Ukiah Police Department Chief Noble Waidelich told the public via yesterday’s press release that, “regardless of these findings, an incident such as this warrants reflection.”
To reflect on the incident and provide “the highest level of service possible to our community”, Chief Waidelich said that UPD would be “partnering with other local agencies with expertise in mental health, disabilities, and substance abuse, as well as obtaining new tools to assist with nonviolent de-escalation.”
Looking forward, Chief Waidelich said UPD would be working with the Mobile Crisis Worker program, an outgrowth of Mendocino County’s Measure B initiative, that would partner crisis workers with officers to effectively respond to circumstances involving mental illness. Also, UPD is actively partnering with Redwood Coast Regional Center for training “on officer interactions with people with disabilities.”
Chief Waidelich stated that he remains committed to providing “services that support a higher quality of life for all residents. I am also committed to hiring staff who reflect the makeup of our community, because this is our home too.”