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Palo Alto police accused of excessive force in lawsuit

Woman claims officer hit her in the back of her knee, causing injuries

The Palo Alto Police Department is facing a lawsuit from Harlene Grewal, who claims an altercation with police in October 2021 left her with injuries that required surgery. Embarcadero Media file photo.

A woman filed a lawsuit against the Palo Alto Police Department last week claiming that she suffered numerous injuries, including a torn ligament, when a police officer hit her in the knee, slammed her into a car and handcuffed her during an October 2021 encounter.

Harlene Grewal claimed in her complaint that the altercation occurred just after she had exited a local music venue on Oct. 15, 2021. She wrote in her complaint that two officers, Nick Enberg and Ian Johnson, arrived at her car and ordered her to provide identification. As she attempted to do so, Enberg allegedly grabbed her without telling her why or giving her any instructions, according to the suit.

Enberg then called Johnson for help and both officers attempted to handcuff her in what she called an "unlawful detention," Grewal stated in a complaint that she filed with the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Enberg also hit her in the back of her knee, which resulted in her tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, injuries that required her to have surgery, she alleged in the suit.

Grewal, a San Jose resident who is representing herself in the suit, wrote in the complaint that Enberg slammed her against her car and applied handcuffs so tightly that she suffered injuries to both of her wrists.

"To this day, Grewal suffers extreme pain and reduced mobility," her complaint states.

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Grewal argued in the complaint that the actions of the officers constituted excessive force and that they violated her constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney costs and a declaration that the officers' actions were unlawful.

Grewal could not be reached for comment Monday. The city did not respond to questions about her allegations.

Her lawsuit comes nearly a year after the city reached a settlement with Joel Alejo, who was repeatedly bitten by a Palo Alto K-9 in a case of mistaken identity as he was sleeping in a shed in Mountain View and police were looking for a kidnapping suspect. Enberg also was involved in that case, with body camera footage showing him leading the K-9 toward Alejo and ordering it to bite while another officer screamed at the man to "stop resisting" during the June 2020 altercation.

The city reached a settlement of $135,000 with Alejo last December.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Palo Alto police accused of excessive force in lawsuit

Woman claims officer hit her in the back of her knee, causing injuries

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 29, 2022, 9:35 am

A woman filed a lawsuit against the Palo Alto Police Department last week claiming that she suffered numerous injuries, including a torn ligament, when a police officer hit her in the knee, slammed her into a car and handcuffed her during an October 2021 encounter.

Harlene Grewal claimed in her complaint that the altercation occurred just after she had exited a local music venue on Oct. 15, 2021. She wrote in her complaint that two officers, Nick Enberg and Ian Johnson, arrived at her car and ordered her to provide identification. As she attempted to do so, Enberg allegedly grabbed her without telling her why or giving her any instructions, according to the suit.

Enberg then called Johnson for help and both officers attempted to handcuff her in what she called an "unlawful detention," Grewal stated in a complaint that she filed with the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Enberg also hit her in the back of her knee, which resulted in her tearing her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, injuries that required her to have surgery, she alleged in the suit.

Grewal, a San Jose resident who is representing herself in the suit, wrote in the complaint that Enberg slammed her against her car and applied handcuffs so tightly that she suffered injuries to both of her wrists.

"To this day, Grewal suffers extreme pain and reduced mobility," her complaint states.

Grewal argued in the complaint that the actions of the officers constituted excessive force and that they violated her constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney costs and a declaration that the officers' actions were unlawful.

Grewal could not be reached for comment Monday. The city did not respond to questions about her allegations.

Her lawsuit comes nearly a year after the city reached a settlement with Joel Alejo, who was repeatedly bitten by a Palo Alto K-9 in a case of mistaken identity as he was sleeping in a shed in Mountain View and police were looking for a kidnapping suspect. Enberg also was involved in that case, with body camera footage showing him leading the K-9 toward Alejo and ordering it to bite while another officer screamed at the man to "stop resisting" during the June 2020 altercation.

The city reached a settlement of $135,000 with Alejo last December.

Comments

White Senior fears Palo Alto Police
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:09 pm
White Senior fears Palo Alto Police, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:09 pm

My online name says it all.


Local Resident
Registered user
Community Center
on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:08 pm
Local Resident, Community Center
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:08 pm

This article is just reporting one side of the story. Why was she stopped and detained? Did someone call in a request for the police?


Betty
Registered user
Woodside
on Nov 29, 2022 at 10:19 pm
Betty, Woodside
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 10:19 pm

I have a running tally of Enberg’s use of excessive force, (at least the ones who made headlines) and it is up to five, starting with the lethal shooting of William Raff just a little under 6 years ago. When will the force decide enough is enough? He has made an ANNUAL spectacle of himself proving that he is unfit to protect and serve. The police department’s aim is for “more transparency” and yet they’ve shut down their social media channels and made it so that residents can’t make their voices heard. And residents did not want him continuing to serve on the force three incidents ago. When does it end?


Janice R Miller
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 29, 2022 at 10:27 pm
Janice R Miller, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2022 at 10:27 pm

There needs to be multiple video/audio footage of all encounters. This is an easy solution. I am a senior. I have witnessed officer abuse for over 50 years--in Chicago, Manhattan and the Bay Area, where I have lived for the last 19 years. Show me the video and I will believe the officers. It should be mandatory and enforced. Good officers can end up in serious danger if they accurately report fellow officer's abuse. Enforce compliance seriously and pay/respect the one's that have our backs-regardless of ethnicity and property.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2022 at 5:44 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 5:44 am

I don’t know why our police bother trying to detain crooks anymore. There’s absolutely no upside for them to take the risk of a non compliant suspect and the inevitable media dredging. It’s obvious there’s far more to the story but the city certainly won’t speak on their behalf.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:21 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 7:21 am

All PAPD officers are required to use body worn cameras with audio, so information from both is included in investigation of this incident and reviewed by our Independent Police Auditor, reported on.
There is limited information here, as noted by above commenter, including any basis for using the term “crook’.
Ms. Grewal - get a good lawyer. Most don’t. Renowned excessive force lawyer, John Burris, in Oakland is best (at least call for a good referral from him).


Daryl Prescott
Registered user
Portola Valley
on Nov 30, 2022 at 8:21 am
Daryl Prescott, Portola Valley
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 8:21 am

A more detailed police account of this incident along with those of any observant witnesses would be helpful in regards to having a better public understanding of what actually transpired.

The PAPD needs to be more transparent and should release all of the details pertaining to this alleged police 'beat down' to Palo Alto Online.


Althea Wilkins
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:06 am
Althea Wilkins, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 9:06 am

Whether this incident was racially-motivated or not, we will have to wait for more facts to emerge.

That said, as a law-abiding person of African American descent we always try to avoid driving through Palo Alto because the police view and treat us differently than ordinary white folks


jayches
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:19 am
jayches, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:19 am

We have no idea what happened here until the badge and camera footage is made public, which usually only occurs as part of litigation down the road, but the police generally respond to force with force, and the complainant can advantage of that by putting out an early narrative like this one - I was just minding my business, walking out to my car, and I was unexpectedly assaulted for no reason by multiple police officers who brutalized me to the point of needing corrective surgeries. On the other hand, the public court record shows a series of hearings and probation with this person in a criminal case following an arrest about a year ago.


John
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:15 am
John, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:15 am

Was this the gal who collided with a vehicle downtown, fled the scene in her car and then fought the cops last year? DUI arrest? One could look back on the PA Post blotter and learn about this incident. Maybe a journalist could do so?


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:33 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 11:33 am

John Burris isn't the least bit interested unless there is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ involved.

A repeat offender? Coming out of a "music venue" drunk, being combative to the point where it took two male officers to cuff a female. If you resist arrest, there are consequences. She wants attorney's fees, yet she's representing herself.

Unbelievable.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:26 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2022 at 1:26 pm

This incident happened in 2021.
Not surprising that a commenter found:
“ … the public court record shows a series of hearings and probation with this person in a criminal case following an arrest about a year ago.”
Yet people leap to conclusions without substantiation.


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