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Is it Always Safe to Call Irvine Police Department for Help?

Who you gonna call?

A Southern California man is suing the City of Irvine and its police department in the wake of a bizarre July 26, 2018 incident worthy of a Twilight Zone episode. 

Earlier that day, court records show Labarian Willis obtained a court-issued protective order requiring Aryanna Ferris to stay at least 100 yards away from him.

But Ferris nonetheless showed up and “began acting hysterical and violent,” according to the lawsuit filed this month inside Orange County’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.

Willis called the Irvine Police Department, informed them of the situation and waited for assistance.

Officer Kristi Valentine arrived and “immediately began treating Willis as if he was the suspect,” according to Gregory Peacock, a Newport Beach-based plaintiff’s attorney. “Willis explained to Valentine and [other officers] that he is the one who called the police; he is the one who is the protected party in the court order; and that Ferris was in violation of the order.”

Peacock also noted that Ferris didn’t accuse his client of committing any crime.

But the officer said it “was the Irvine Police Department practice to arrest one of the parties when they respond to a call for service involving domestic violence,” the lawsuit asserts. 

Valentine decided the best person to arrest was Willis. She threw him in jail, where he stayed for 24 hours. He won his release only after paying a $200,000 bail.

The Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) didn’t contribute to the mess; they refused to file charges.

Peacock’s 17-page lawsuit alleges that Willis’ constitutional rights were violated, including unlawful seizure, negligence and false imprisonment. 

The attorney advised U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, “None of the defendants to this action had a warrant for Willis’ arrest, nor probable cause to believe that he had committed a crime, nor reasonable suspicion that he was a danger to anyone or anything, nor even a reasonable suspicion of crime afoot by him.”

Lawyers for the city have not yet filed a formal response in court.