Arrested for a felony, he returned home blind in one eye

Rafael Salgadoshuttershock

The pain radiating from Rafael Salgado’s right eye makes it difficult to sleep. But discomfort isn’t the only thing preventing her from sleeping at night.

Wearing a patch that has covered his eye for weeks, the 42-year-old single dad wonders if he’ll ever be able to work again. Or drive. Or take care of your teenage son and daughter.

Salgado has not been able to see through his eyes since May 3. That night, Hawthorne police arrested him on suspicion of a domestic violence offense at his home. Minutes later, as he was driven in handcuffs from a police car to the city’s municipal jail, Salgado said, an officer pushed him towards a row of chests for no reason.

According to hospital records, Salgado struck a “metallic object”, suffering from a laceration to his cornea. His right eyeball was described as “ruptured”.

Photos taken that night show Salgado’s eye quickly transformed into an angry purple oval, with scabs of blood smearing his cheek. He underwent surgery the next morning, but doctors warned he was unlikely to ever see the injured eye again, hospital records show.

The gruesome injury was captured by a surveillance camera in the police department’s garage, according to Salgado’s civilian lawyer Wesley Ouchi. He said the footage shows a police officer pushing his helpless client face-first into a row of metal safes, where officers are supposed to place their belongings before entering the city’s municipal dungeon .

“We see the officer ending up with two arms and pushing my client, who is handcuffed,” said Ouchi, who said he was cleared to view the footage by Hawthorne town officials but was had not received a copy. “He goes head first into the safes, and one of the metal keys goes through his eyelid and into his eye.”

Hawthorne Police have described Salgado’s injury as an accident, but have yet to release video of the incident or provide details to The Times in response to a request for public documents.

“We are aware of the accident that occurred while Mr. Salgado was in our custody, in which he was injured in his right eye,” the department said in a statement. “The City contacted Mr. Salgado’s lawyer about this. In addition, an administrative investigation into the circumstances of this incident was opened.

Ouchi filed a notice of claim, the first step towards a lawsuit against the department.

Salgado and Ouchi allege that the incident amounts to police brutality. Greg Risling, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said the agency was aware of the incident, but declined to give further details.

The office’s justice systems integrity division, which prosecutes law enforcement malpractices, is “reviewing” the case, though it is not clear whether they have opened a formal criminal investigation or not. requested copies of the video of Salgado’s injury, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the situation. The source spoke on condition of anonymity to frankly discuss the case.

Salgado told staff at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center he had several drinks at a neighborhood bar before coming home and arguing with his girlfriend, hospital records show. Soon after, several police officers arrived at his home, according to Salgado, who said neither he nor his girlfriend had called them. Salgado said an officer then placed him under arrest, but declined to say why or identify himself.

Salgado and Ouchi refused to identify the woman or provide her contact details, but denied all allegations of domestic violence. Beyond their initial statement, the Hawthorne Police Department declined to answer most questions the Times asked about the case due to an ongoing litigation. Police did not say whether the woman was injured when she arrived at the scene, or who called them alleging domestic violence.

Prison records show Salgado was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and resisting arrest. Police officials said the Hawthorne town attorney’s office is reviewing Salgado’s case for possible prosecution. Interim Attorney for the Town of Hawthorne. Robert Kim did not respond to a call for comment.

After slamming in the trunk, says Salgado, he was in “excruciating” pain and bleeding profusely from his right eye. He said he begged to be taken to the hospital, but instead an officer took him to a prison cell and offered him an ice pack.

“I had my eyes closed all the time. I’m still handcuffed, my eyes down, because I was afraid something else was going to happen, ”Salgado said.

In his notice of claim against the city, Ouchi identified the officers involved in Salgado’s arrest as Jeffrey Tysl, George Bukhin and Michael Jenks. Hawthorne Police declined to identify the officers, but did not deny that the names included in Ouchi’s file were correct. Several attempts to contact each agent were unsuccessful.

Ouchi said a representative from the city’s prosecutor’s office told him that the officer who pushed Salgado was Tysl, a Hawthorne police officer since 2009, who had previously been the subject of serious allegations of brutality.

In 2014, Tysl was one of many officers named in a lawsuit brought by a deaf man who claimed Hawthorne police repeatedly hit him with a taser, beat him and ultimately suffocated him until he was killed. ‘he loses consciousness while responding to a report from a suspicious person.

Tysl and other officers found Jonathan Meister carrying items from a yard to his car, court records show. Meister had previously lived at the place and was allowed to be there, but he was not able to communicate this to the officers, who did not understand sign language, according to the prosecution.

Officers attempted to grab Meister’s arms, causing him to panic and struggle in response, according to the lawsuit. During the ensuing scuffle, Tysl allegedly punched Meister several times and placed him in a choke, while other officers repeatedly punched him with the stun gun, according to the lawsuit.

Tysl later admitted he knew Meister may have been deaf, but also said he feared Meister would lie about it to “evade” his arrest, according to a copy of a statement taken in the report. ‘case. He also said he nudged the man five times and did not deny choking him.

The criminal charges against Meister were dismissed and the city settled the case for $ 350,000, according to John Burton, a civilian attorney who represented Meister.

Tysl said he was not disciplined and received no internal criticism for his tactics, according to the deposition. He also said he felt he had done nothing wrong and would not have apologized to Meister.

From 2016 to 2019, the Hawthorne Police Department received 24 complaints from citizens alleging professional misconduct, but only received one, according to data disclosed to the California Department of Justice.

Salgado and his family asked why it took almost seven hours between his injury and when he was seen by an ophthalmologist. He was pushed into the vaults around 8:05 p.m., according to a time stamp on the footage reviewed by his lawyer. But he didn’t arrive at the hospital until 9:30 p.m., according to records.

Ouchi says the prison video shown to him by the city showed officers ignoring Salgado’s calls for help and, at one point, mocking him.

Salgado was first taken to Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, where he says he was handcuffed and shirtless in a hallway for about five hours. Several members of Salgado’s family, some of whom work in hospital administration, said police should have taken him to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the closest trauma department in the area.

In a statement to the Times, a spokeswoman for Centinela Hospital declined to comment specifically on Salgado’s case, but noted that the facility “is not a designated trauma center, so when patients present with injuries and a higher level of care is required, a transfer is initiated. “Salgado did not arrive at UCLA until 3:23 a.m., according to records.

“The wound of the [right] the eye is serious and will cause permanent visual loss, ”wrote a doctor. “Without surgery, the patient will likely lose their eye due to an infection.”

Medical experts said Salgado’s eyesight was likely irreparably damaged on impact.

Dr Philip R. Rizzuto, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology who now teaches at Brown University, pointed to a study which showed that injuries to the “globe” of the eye such as those suffered by Salgado “should be fixed” within 24 hours.

Although an eye injury should always be treated as soon as possible, Rizzuto said, the “catastrophic” nature of Salgado’s injury likely played more of a role in his vision loss than the speed with which he lost it. been treated.

Salgado was previously arrested by Hawthorne Police on suspicion of drunk driving in 2019, but said he had no ill will towards the police until the night he lost his sight in his right eye . He said he hoped that by speaking he could prevent anyone else from feeling the panic and pain he says he went through.

“I just want justice done. I don’t want him to keep doing the same to other people, ”he said. “Maybe he has done it in the past.”

Salgado said his wife died of complications from epilepsy in 2017, and that he now fears his children will suffer even more with him seriously injured. Her younger sister, Ester, said the incident brought the realities of viral police abuse videos into their family home.

“It’s so sad to know that your life can change in an instant. You hear the stories… but you never think it’s going to happen to you. To your family, ”she said. “There was no reason for him to be treated like that. “

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