Attorney for Stockton teen injured by police praises firing of officers

Attorney John Burris (right) speaks at a rally for 17 year old Devin Carter (left) outside City Hall in downtown Stockton.  Burris said in January that he intends to file a federal lawsuit against the Stockton Police Department and the City of Stockton alleging that Carter was attacked by police for no reason

Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris intends to commence a federal lawsuit against the City of Stockton and its law enforcement agency alleging that his client, 17-year-old Lincoln High School senior Devin Carter, was attacked by police without explanation in December been.

Burris said civil lawsuits were on hold to avoid disrupting the Stockton Police Department’s internal administrative investigation. The department announced Tuesday that two officers were fired for excessive violence and three other people are subject to internal discipline after Carter injured himself on December 30 after a brief vehicle chase.

“We expected something like this to happen,” said Burris. “We also believe that the officials should be prosecuted and we will work together to do this with the prosecutor.”

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Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones said the case had been turned over to the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office for review. District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said her office is conducting its own independent investigation to see if criminal charges should be brought against the dismissed officers, identified by police as Michael Stiles and Omar Villapudua.

Both officers were on the department’s community response team, police said. Stiles was hired by Stockton Police in 2018 and Villapudua in 2016.

Burris, whose previous client is Rodney King, said the police agency’s decision to terminate Stiles and Villapudua was “appropriate” for the way they treated Carter, who “only caused one traffic incident.”

“I think this is just the beginning,” said Burris. “Not only were you fired, you should be prosecuted.”

Devin Carter, center, is flanked by his father George Carter (left) and mother Jessica Carter at a January 6 press conference outside Stockton City Hall.

The executive summary issued by Stockton Police at the time of Carter’s interaction with Stockton Police reported that at 8:30 p.m. on December 30, officers attempted to stop a traffic stop on a Mercedes-Benz that was being driven irregularly and more than Hour accelerated 100 mph.

According to the report, the vehicle led officers to a three-minute chase and the vehicle passed two innocent drivers on the right, who gave in to emergency lights and sirens. One of the yielding drivers turned and a chasing police vehicle collided with the vehicle.

The persecution ended when the police used a persecution intervention technique, the report said. Four officers used violence during the arrest of the driver and he was taken to San Joaquin General Hospital for medical examination and clearance before being admitted to Juvenile Hall on suspicion of evading arrest and resisting arrest.

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Enlarged photos of Carter’s face and back were shown at a press conference in January, showing injuries allegedly caused by officials following a traffic chase that ended on Davis Road north north of Eight Mile Road in Stockton. Carter’s eyes were injured, one was bloodshot, and there were scratches on the left side of his face, including a shoe or boot print. There was another shoe or boot print, scratches and bruises on his back.

Carter’s father, George Carter of Stockton, said at the January news conference that officers had stepped on his son’s face and back.

Jones confirmed Tuesday that officers’ hands and feet were both used on Carter during the interaction.

Attorney John Burris speaks at a press conference outside Stockton City Hall about the alleged flogging of Devin Carter, 17, by Stockton police on December 30, 2020.

“I think that’s clearly one of the main problems I’ve had and why two officers have been severed from employment,” said Jones. “Given these circumstances, I cannot and will not tolerate excessive violence. In addition, any use of profanity is considered unjustified and unprofessional.”

He also said that the use of force on Carter’s neck and head “was particularly egregious to me”.

Although the officers did not use racial slurs during the interaction, Burris said they called Carter, who is black, and used swear words.

“I really talked to him in a way that I thought was a young black man with no rights and … you can do what you want,” Burris said.

When asked if race or ethnicity played a role in the interaction between the police and the black teen, Jones said there was no evidence that this was a factor.

The sacking of Stiles and Villapudua “sets a good standard of accountability” within the Stockton Police Department.

“Other officials should see that they can be held accountable and they do not have a free hand to beat someone without a valid reason.”

Record reporter Cassie Dickman covers the Stockton and San Joaquin Counties government. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @byCassieDickman. Support local news and subscribe to The Stockton Record at