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The son of a Ceres police employee stood before the City Council Monday evening with cries of police brutality relating to their response to a Sept. 8 drinking party.

Adolph Estrada accused officers of heavy-handed tactics in response to complaints of a loud party, attended by approximately 40-50 youth, in the 3100 block of Burton Drive in Ceres early on the morning of Sept. 8.

Seven persons were arrested for a variety of criminal complaints, mostly for resisting arrest and attempting to incite a riot.

An internal investigation is being conducted in response to six citizen complains filed with Ceres Police.

Estrada, the son of Community Service Officer Sally Estrada, said officers were "overwhelmingly aggressive." He claims two females at the party were dragged out by their hair and that a male was struck with elbows in the head and tasered, then pepper sprayed in the face while sitting in the back of a patrol car.

During the altercations, he said an officer knocked a camera phone out of a woman's hand as she was recording video of the incident. Estrada said the officer stepped on the woman's hand as she reached for the phone and seized it as evidence of a crime being committed.

Estrada himself was not arrested and said he was compliant with officers' questions. Still, he said, an officer berated Estrada as "an embarrassment to your mother."

Estrada was accompanied by two representatives of the local chapter of the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

John Mataka, who is in charge of legal redress for the NAACP of Stanislaus County, accused Ceres Police of being heavy handed with Latino youth, stemming from the Jan. 9, 2005 slaying of Sgt. Howard Stevenson and shooting of Officer Sam Ryno. Police shot and killed the assailant, AWOL Marine Andres Raya.

"I believe a lot of the problems that are happening with police now are a direct result of that tragic incident," said Mataka. "It seemed like from that point on it was all out war against the Mexican youth and the Mexican community."

He said in response to the Stevenson shooting, police were guilty of "some terrible things," including "towing innocent people's vehicles," and "pulling automatic weapons on mentally retarded youth." He said the actions stopped when his group, CopWatch, came in to tape police with cameras.

Police insisted that the crackdown against an uprising of Latino gangs who saw Raya as a martyr.

Mataka also mentioned the May 29 shooting of Kennya Mosley, who was shot as he was fleeing from officers after a high-speed pursuit. Officers said they shot Mosley because he was reaching for something in his waistband, not because he is African-American. It turned out that Mosley was not armed. He survived the shooting but civil rights groups cried foul.

"There is a history here in Ceres against people of color," charged Mataka on Monday.

Ceres Police Division Commander Mike Borges later dismissed charges of racism, noting that four of the seven police officers who responded to the party are of Latino descent, including the supervising sergeant, Jose Berber.

The incident was also witnessed by three police explorers, two volunteers, a citizen rider and community liaison officer Enrique Perez. Borges said there are differing views of what happened.

Mataka also accused countywide law enforcement of unjustly charging youth with felonies so they can plea-bargain to no time.

Mostly misdemeanor charges were filed in the Sept. 8 incident.

Borges gave a much different picture of what occurred on Burton Drive.

He said a neighbor complained about the loud noise and one patrol unit arrived. Officer Mike Perez knocked on the door and heard people inside the house scramble around, some peeking through windows. He heard someone yell to shut up and turn the lights off. After the officer knocked again and identified himself as police, said Borges, he heard the comment, "The f-----g pigs aren't coming in."

As additional units were arriving, Perez wrote in his report that he saw "numerous girls looking through the door and flipping me off."

Officers began issuing parking citations to various vehicles, when a small group came out of the front door of the house, which was slammed and locked behind them, said Borges. It's believed that Estrada was one of the youth who was questioned by officers. Borges said his officers believed that alcohol was being served to minors inside the house. He noted that a 20-year-old who was illegally drinking managed to escape arrest that morning.

Suddenly a mass of people came outside, leading to a number of confrontations with police, said Borges.

Officers then were dealing with "numerous issues," he said. Borges said officers typically respond on the basis of the behavior of people involved. He noted that officers are trained to use the "hair pull take down" to subdue subjects. He said the maneuver is one of tactics used to take control of uncooperative subjects.

Police arrested the homeowner, Brianne Garcia, 22. She was charged with six counts, including misdemeanor charges of urging violence, inciting a riot, refusal to disburse when ordered, resisting arrest and resisting an executive officer.

"As we tried to take Ms. Garcia into custody she became combative which incited other people to take up for her," said Borges.

Also arrested were:

• Desiree Gonzales, 21, charged with resisting arrest, inciting a riot, and failure to disperse when ordered;

• Marilyn Alvarez, 18, charged with resisting arrest, inciting a riot, and failure to disperse when ordered;

• Jesse Alvarez, 21, arrested for inciting a riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication;

• Daisy Mayorga, 21, charged with resisting arrest, inciting a riot, and failure to disperse when ordered, and public drunkenness;

• Erica Tapia, 25, arrested for felony resisting an executive officer, inciting a riot, failure to disperse, and resisting arrest;

• Mario Armendariz, 22, arrested for felony resisting an officer, resisting arrest, urging violence, inciting a riot, refusal to disperse when ordered.

Borges said his department received six complaints filed against officers. Complaint forms were distributed to those who asked for them during the party as required by law, said Borges.

"This will probably play out in court," said Borges.

Mataka commented that he doesn't believe police are trained in how to deal with young people.

"We're not saying there aren't young people who do crimes but ... the majority of these young people in Ceres as well as other communities ... they're just young people out looking to have a good time.

"As long as they're not underage and as long as they're not doing a crime, they shouldn't be harassed and pulled out of houses by their hair. It's an attack on young people in general."

Wendy Bird of the NAACP said her group wants to work to improve relations between police and minorities. She said her group bypassed their normal protocol of going first to Chief of Police Art deWerk and going straight to the council because of the fear youth have of police.

"They don't trust that they (police) will conduct a fair investigation," said Bird of those at the party.

"We're asking that if, indeed, this officer is guilty of what he is being accused of, that he be removed from the force immediately. We believe nine out of 10 officers are very good. We appreciate what they do. But there's always one or two bad apples in the bunch."

The complaints prompted citizen Leonard Shepherd to rise to defend officers as a whole.

"There is no more taking part in raising children," said Shepherd. "The police officers are very scared out there sometimes and they react. I'd be scared too if when you know some of the things go on. I'm 64 years old, I would have never even thought of arguing with a police officer when I was a teenager. Not because I thought I could get away with it, but I knew when I got home my parents would have something to say to me very, very drastically. It's a product of our freer society where people don't take responsibility."

Don Donaldson commented that he's never had a problem with Ceres police since living here since 1970.

Shortly after the incident, Estrada submitted a letter to the Courier editor but later retracted it. In the letter Estrada concluded that officers' actions were due to a "wounded ego due to the door not being opened at their convenience."

In the letter he also said "officers took a routine situation and allowed it to become a fiasco."