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Council rejects claim over tight handcuffs
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A half-million-dollar claim relating to a Ceres police arrest was rejected recently by the Ceres City Council.

Derrick Delhart, 45, of Hughson, filed a claim for $500,000 against the city of Ceres saying he suffered nerve damage and scarring to his right hand when an officer placed handcuffs too tightly on him during his Sept. 24, 2010 arrest.

The council rejection of the claim clears the way for Delhart to file legal action but he said he has not decided his next action.

"I don't want to be at odds with the city," said Delhart, son of former Mayor Jim Delhart. "I didn't want to file a claim...and I'd withdraw it if a doctor could tell me nothing is wrong with me."

Delhart was arrested by Officer Jon Vera on Plainview Drive in Ceres on assault with a deadly weapon charges. Delhart had just left La Morenita Restaurant parking lot where he allegedly held up a knife during a verbal altercation with Brad Garrett, also of Ceres. On a claim form, Delhart said the officer "applied handcuffs much, much tighter than necessary" and "drove erratically without securing me with seatbelt." Delhart said the tight handcuffs have resulted in "severe pain, permanent scarring, probable nerve damage, right hand is usually cold." He also noted that because he doesn't have medical insurance he has not seen a doctor and is uncertain about the duration or extent of his injury.

According to a Ceres Police report, Delhart became angry when Garrett's 10-year-old son was talking too loudly in the parking lot and interrupted Delhart's cell phone conversation. Brad Garrett and his family loaded into their SUV and began to exit the parking lot. Delhart allegedly came very close to ramming into Garrett's SUV as he threw his Ford Explorer in reverse "at a high rate of speed," the report said. Garrett stopped and the two vehicles were idling driver door to driver door when Delhart insulted Garrett's wife by saying, "She's got some mouth on her."

The two men got out of their vehicles. Garrett said he told Delhart he didn't need to talk to family members like he was and said Delhart approached in an aggressive manner with a knife in hand. Garrett claims Delhart held a knife next to Garrett's neck. Delhart lowered the knife and got back into his vehicle to leave the scene, he said. Garrett followed as his wife called 9-1-1.

Delhart disputed that he tried ramming the Garrett vehicle and denied holding a knife to Garrett's body. He said the police report is "full of omissions and inaccuracies."

"I brandished it (the knife) as self defense," said Delhart. "He had something shiny in his hand. I thought it was a gun."

A parking lot surveillance video showed two vehicles nearly collide in the parking lot but it was not determined if they were Delhart's and Garrett's. Because it was dark at 8:41 p.m., the video failed to capture the altercation. The surveillance video was not saved.

Officer Vera said Delhart had a strong smell of alcohol on his breath and that his eyes were bloodshot and watery. Delhart claims he only had one beer that night and passed a breathalyzer test.

Four days after his arrest, Delhart reported to Deputy Chief Mike Borges that he had been injured in the arrest and wanted photos taken of his injuries. Delhart wants the city to pay for a doctor's visit.

Because Delhart filed a complaint against Officer Vera, an internal investigation is taking place, said Borges.

"It boils down to excessive force," said Delhart. "I was fully cooperative and in fact was overly cooperative and he had those cuffs on me so tight...."

Delhart said he cooperated with officers by giving them the key code to get in his Explorer and told them where to find the 4-1/2" bladed knife.

"He was way out of line and has an anger management problem."

Delhart also accused the officer of failing to seatbelt him in and drove to a second call - that of a DUI crash on Whitmore Avenue - " slinging me from side to side laughing all the time.

Borges could not comment on specifics of the case but said his department discourages officers from going to another call with a suspect in the patrol car but that at times it cannot be avoided. Borges also said CPD policy strongly suggests officers seatbelt anyone in custody in the car but only if it can be done safely to the officer.

"Typically we can adjust handcuffs if there are complaints about them being too tight but unfortunately handcuffs aren't very comfortable," noted Borges.

Delhart's criminal case has not been resolved. He is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 10 and his defense attorney has filed a "Pitch's Motion," to delve into the officer's record to see if he has had other complaints filed against him.