The City of Anaheim can pretend all it wants that it is dead, but that will not disappear a $400,000 settlement with a father and son city cops arrested and detained respectively for the shovel killing of an opossum. Lorenzo Oliver's subsequent wrongful arrest lawsuit was rejected in federal court in Santa Ana, but the state appeals court overturned the ruling, finding there is no state law prohibiting possum killing.
Just ask Jed Clampett's Granny Moses!
Neighbors summoned police in March 2008 with reports Oliver's then-12-year-old son was repeatedly bashing the head of the opossum with the shovel. Anaheim Police Officers
Ryan Tisdale and James Brown arrived in time to witness the spectacle and arrested the father for covering up the animal cruelty. The critter was eventually euthanized.
Oliver spent four hours in the city jail as his family arranged the $20,000 bail, and his son was detained at the police station. Criminal charges were never filed against the pair, but publicity from the
case led to a backlash against the Olivers that included death
The patriarch sued in
federal court, claiming he and his son were wrongfully arrested and his family suffered emotional duress at the hands of police and the
media. Judge Cormac Carney at the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana
ruled against Oliver, so he appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco.
A three-judge panel concluded last summer
it is not illegal to kill an opossum and that “a reasonable officer”
should have known the arrests were unlawful. Oliver was allowed to sue
each cop individually.
The $400,000 settlement with the Anaheim City Attorney's office represents $100,000 for each hour Oliver was held in the city
jail, according to
his Newport Beach lawyer, Jerry Steering, who gets a cut of the award.
Hey, can Anaheim cops please wrongfully arrest me and hold me overnight? 'Cause daddy's got some major credit card debt.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.