Couple suing city of San Jose, police over use of force in hotel altercation

Sunday, August 16, 2020
Couple suing city of San Jose, police over use of force in hotel altercation
Marissa Santa Cruz and Paea Tukuafu have sued the city of San Jose, Calif., after they say cops beat them at a hotel on Paea's 22nd birthday in May 2019.

A couple has filed a lawsuit claiming they were "battered and bruised" by police while celebrating a birthday at a hotel in San Jose, California, last year.

Marissa Santa Cruz and Paea Tukuafu were marking the former's 22nd birthday on May 18, 2019, when, according to a federal civil rights complaint against the city of San Jose, officers with the San Jose Police Department responding to a noise complaint at their hotel room struck them with batons, rubber bullets and Tasers "multiple times." According to the suit, Tukuafu was stunned seven times.

"It was brutal, definitely brutal. I don't think we did anything to deserve the way how we were treated," Tukuafu told San Francisco ABC station KGO, which just obtained body camera footage of the incident.

According to the complaint, two officers responding to a noise complaint acknowledged that the couple's music was not too loud before asking for their identification. After they allegedly said they would return the IDs once the couple left the hotel, the incident escalated.

Three other officers responded, according to the complaint. The couple decided to leave, and while packing their belongings, the suit claims, officers entered their room without consent. After the couple "failed the officers' 'attitude test,'" the officers allegedly struck them with batons, tasers and "sponge rounds," according to the complaint.

The couple was transported by ambulance to the hospital for evaluation of "serious" injuries before being booked and spending the night in jail," according to the complaint. No criminal charges were filed.

The body camera footage shows one officer directing another to retrieve a "riot gun." In the footage, an officer also is heard saying "Tase this guy" after Tukuafu is heard saying, "Shut the f--- up" from inside the hotel room. Santa Cruz can then be seen rushing toward the hotel door as officers try to enter.

"I didn't want him to be Tased," Santa Cruz told KGO. "Cursing is not breaking any law."

The footage obtained by KGO shows officers using Tasers on both Tukuafu and Santa Cruz and striking Santa Cruz repeatedly with batons.

In court documents filed in response to the complaint, the city of San Jose said the officers' use of force "was an appropriate, reasonable, and constitutionally permissible response to Plaintiffs' actions under the circumstances."

An attorney for the city of San Jose didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

The lawsuit, which is seeking damages for violations of constitutional rights, was filed earlier this year and alleges that there's a "culture within the police department of excessive use of force."

"We need to hold the police accountable for their actions, and we can't let them continue to act like this," Santa Cruz told KGO.

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