This is an expanded version of a story posted earlier.
Former courthouse custodian Jose Verdusco has sued San Mateo County and a deputy sheriff, seeking to recover damages in connection with an April 2015 incident in a courtroom in which Deputy Andy Mar, in the room as a bailiff, allegedly unholstered his loaded service pistol and pointed it at Mr. Verdusco.
The lawsuit, dated March 14, alleges assault on the part of the deputy as well as false imprisonment, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and a civil-rights violation.
The lawsuit names San Mateo County as a co-defendant, alleging negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention.
"Without cause or provocation," Mr. Verdusco says in the lawsuit, Mr. Mar pulled his loaded gun from his holster and pointed it at Mr. Verdusco with his finger on the trigger and said, "You want some South Carolina justice?" A week earlier, a white police officer from North Charleston, South Carolina, had shot and killed an unarmed black man with his back to the officer and running away.
Mr. Mar has been on paid administrative leave since two days after the incident, according to the Sheriff's Office, and charged with a misdemeanor. "Rude brandishing of firearm constitutes (a) violation of (the) misdemeanor brandishing statute," District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a January 2016 report.
Mr. Verdusco, 34 and married with two children, has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, has had expenses for drugs and medical services, and has had to move on to a new job that does not involve proximity to law enforcement officers or firearms, according to his Redwood City attorney, Todd P. Emanuel.
The Almanac was unable to reach Mr. Mar's attorney for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that on the morning of April 13, 2015, Mr. Verdusco entered courtroom 7B in Redwood City to speak with the court clerk and court reporter. Also in the room was Deputy Mar, in uniform and working as a bailiff.
Mr. Verdusco says in the lawsuit that he became "alarmed and scared" after Mr. Mar drew his gun, and that he moved to avoid being within the sights of the gun. He eventually "escaped" the courtroom through a back door, the lawsuit says.
In accusing Mr. Mar of violating Mr. Verdusco's civil rights, the lawsuit refers to an earlier encounter between the two in which Mr. Mar allegedly said, "They hire any Mexican here."
Mr. Verdusco reported the incident and two deputies went to the courtroom to address the situation, the lawsuit says. With the two deputies in the courtroom, the lawsuit says, Mr. Mar told one of them that "he knew why they had come to see him" and that he "did it" despite a deputy "forcefully telling him to be quiet" to "protect Mr. Mar from making any incriminating statements."
"I believe the DA's inspectors did a very comprehensive and efficient investigation of this case and I applaud them for doing so," Mr. Emanuel said. "They interviewed everyone, asked all the right questions and they really dug for the truth."
"I'm not applauding the DA for exercising his discretion to charge Deputy Mar with merely a misdemeanor when it should have been a felony," he said.
"Imagine the case in some other context," he said. "Imagine that a security guard at Facebook or Yahoo or Google points a loaded gun at a Hispanic employee of the company and utters the words, "You want some South Carolina justice?"
"I just don't understand why this case is charged as a misdemeanor. I really don't," he said. "I think it's troubling that the Sheriff's Office initially attempted to conduct an internal investigation instead of handing it off. (The sheriff) wanted to make sure there wasn't an arrest or prosecution."
The Almanac asked the Sheriff's Office for a comment on Mr. Emanuel's statement. In response, Chief Deputy County Counsel David Silberman, who is supervising the county's defense, said the Sheriff's Office did conduct an internal affairs investigation and that it "fully cooperated with the District Attorney's criminal investigation from its inception. Any assertion to the contrary is offensive and false. I have seen absolutely no support for the allegation, which is just that, an allegation."
Mr. Silberman said that Mr. Verdusco's claim of negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention on the part of the county is not valid. "The county cannot be liable on the legal theory that Mr. Verdusco alleged," Mr. Silberman said. The plaintiff "may not understand the way that government liability works," he added.
A case management conference is scheduled for June 2. Mr. Emanuel would not discuss remedies, but described the damages in the case as substantial. "Post traumatic stress is well recognized as a very serious injury," he said. "(Mr. Verdusco) worked in the courthouse for more than 10 years and intended to live out his career in that capacity."