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Westminster police officer Brian Perez, who won part of a $3.4 million judgment in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city in 2014, is on administrative leave after an Aug. 30 fight with fellow officer and co-plaintiff Ryan Reyes inside the department’s detective bureau, according to Perez’s attorney Dennis Wagner.
The fight between Perez and Reyes started, Wagner said in a text message, through “Words. Then (they got) too close to each other. Then it got physical.”
“Perez didn’t start the fight,” Wagner said. “I can’t comment further since there will be an (internal affairs investigation) on it and if the city does something to him it might be considered as further retaliation by the city against Perez.”
Wagner said Perez was placed on administrative leave. The city refused to answer questions about Perez’s or Reyes’ job status. Reyes declined to comment.
“I found it interesting that he’s the only one on leave,” Wagner added, saying it was “not a surprise, given they’ve continued to deny him his rights.”
Perez currently is suing the city in a separate case, alleging continuing discrimination against him upon his return from military service.
Westminster City Manager Eddie Manfro declined to comment and would only say the altercation occurred in the detective bureau.
Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze, a spokesman for the police department, said the fight immediately was referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, which is conducting an investigation. Knauerhaze referred all further questions to City Attorney Richard Jones, who did not respond to repeated attempts to reach him for comment.
DA Spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden said there is an active investigation but declined to identify any of the parties involved or describe the fight.
Perez and Reyes, along with a third police officer, Jose Flores, won a discrimination lawsuit against the city in 2014, when a federal jury found the officers were denied assignments and promotions that were given to less qualified officers and were discriminated or retaliated against by former police chiefs for filing complaints. The jury decision was largely upheld by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
Flores, Peres and Reyes argued they were repeatedly denied special assignments such as SWAT or detective duties, and instead assigned “mall duty” at a substation at the Westminster Mall. They claimed they were retaliated against with repeated and unwarranted disciplinary actions after filing complaints.
The city argued during the initial litigation that officers of all races “had to apply numerous times before being promoted to Sergeant” and presented evidence that at least seven Latino officers received special assignments between 2006 and 2013, according to the 2014 appeals court ruling.
Wagner has represented a number of current and former Westminster city employees in lawsuits against the city, including former police chief Kevin Baker and former city clerk Robin Roberts.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC intern. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.
Contact Thy Vo at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.