SAN FRANCISCO — Takuro Hashitaka, a Japanese immigrant, has filed a civil rights complaint against the City and County of San Francisco and members of the San Francisco Police Department, including Chief Greg Suhr, alleging “wrongful and racially motivated brutality, arrest and imprisonment.”
The suit was filed by the law firm of Rachel Lederman & Alexsis C. Beach on Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division.
The complaint also alleges “brutality toward plaintiff’s infant son, Moku Hashitaka, and the wrongful detention and separation of baby Moku from his mother, Jessica Fish Hashitaka.”
According to the complaint, the sequence of events was as follows:
“On Dec. 13, 2103, at approximately 5:45 p.m., plaintiff Takuro Hashitaka left his home at 8th and Ringold Streets, San Francisco, Calif., with his then ten-month-old son, plaintiff Moku Hashitaka, intending to go to the Traders Joe’s grocery store two and a half blocks away. Takuro had Moku in a Baby Bjorn front baby carrier and further secured by a sweatshirt that had been modified into a traditional baby carrier garment with a hole for Moku’s head.
“Takuro got on his bicycle on 8th Street and began riding slowly and carefully in the bike lane with Moku in the baby carriers, when defendant San Francisco Police Officers Anthony Bautista and Brendan Caraway, in a marked police car, drove into the bike lane and came close to hitting Takuro and Moku from behind.
“Takuro gave Officer Caraway an annoyed look, and continued biking down 8th Street in the bike lane. Officer Caraway then asked Takuro over his car loudspeaker why Moku was not wearing a helmet. As Takuro stopped at the light at 8th and Harrison, Caraway and Bautista pulled up alongside plaintiffs and Caraway inquired again about the helmet.
“Takuro was unaware of a requirement for a baby to wear a bike helmet, and asked Caraway what the authority was for this. Caraway responded that he didn’t have to explain anything. Defendants activated their lights, and Takuro pulled over into the gas station on the other side of the 8th and Harrison intersection.
“Defendants Caraway and Bautista got out and immediately grabbed Takuro’s wrists, telling him that he was going to be arrested and that Child Protective Services would take Moku. They never tried to explain what was going on, never asked Takuro to lift Moku out of the baby carriers, and never asked if there was another parent nearby who could take Moku.
“Defendant Sgt. Robert Imbellino and Officers Mougos and Ross, and/or other unknown SFPD officers arrived and assisted in taking Takuro to the ground. Officers Liu, Peralta and Wang and/or other unknown SFPD officers also arrived and assisted once Takuro was restrained on the ground on his back.
“Defendant Caraway choked Takuro until he lost consciousness, and then defendant Bautista began cutting Takuro’s baby carrier sweatshirt, in which Moku was still fastened, with a knife. When Takuro regained consciousness, Caraway choked him again until Takuro lost consciousness a second time. He had still never attempted to talk to Takuro or asked him to take Moku out of the carrier.
“Defendant Officer Bautista then gave the knife to defendant Officer Peralta, who finished cutting the terrified baby out of his father’s garment. Peralta also cut through the Baby Bjorn carrier, rather than simply unsnapping it and lifting Moku out, or asking Takuro to do so. Peralta then handed Moku to Officer Wang.
“When Takuro again regained consciousness, defendants continued to choke him even though he was already handcuffed, and wrapped a hobble around his legs.
“Takuro begged the officers to call his wife, plaintiff Jessica Fish Hashitaka, to come get baby Moku, telling defendants that the family lived only a block away and giving them Jessica’s telephone number. However, Officers Caraway and Wang proceeded to take Moku to Family & Children’s Services (Child Welfare) without ever trying to contact his mother Jessica, who was at home on Ringold Street, a block away.
“Defendants also never notified Jessica that Moku was at Family & Children’s Services, even though Takuro had provided her phone number. This was in violation of SFPD Department Bulletin 13-251, promulgated on Dec. 6, 2013, regarding children of arrested parents, which provides that when arresting a parent, officers should determine whether a non-arrested parent is willing to take responsibility for the children.
“Two hours after Takuro had left home to go to the grocery store, Jessica, who was very worried by that point, answered Takuro’s phone to find that it was Family & Children’s Services. The CPS worker, apparently assuming that SFPD would have notified Jessica that they were taking Moku, asked Jessica why she hadn’t contacted them.
“The worker told Jessica that the police had said her husband was drunk and had hit a police car on his bike, neither of which was true, and which greatly distressed Jessica.
“CPS workers then went to plaintiffs’ home. Jessica was very surprised and upset that the workers did not have Moku with them. They interviewed Jessica, and then took her to where Moku was and returned Moku to Jessica. The detention of Moku and separation from his mother, although temporary, was traumatic for both Jessica and Moku.
“Takuro Hashitaka never engaged in any conduct justifying the SFPD use of force, the arrest, or the removal and detention of his child.
“Family & Children’s Services determined that defendants’ complaint against Takuro for child neglect was unfounded. In her report, the CPS worker described Moku as a beautiful, healthy, clean and well-groomed baby boy, and both parents as loving and caring toward him. Family & Children’s Services did not find defendants’ allegations to constitute child abuse or neglect.
“Plaintiff Takuro Hashitaka spent the night in jail, but was never charged with any crime in connection with this incident.
“As a result of defendants’ misconduct, including their brutality and wrongful arrest of Takuro and forceful removal and wrongful separation of Moku from his parents, Takuro, Moku and Jessica all suffered severe emotional distress, trauma, fear and anxiety. Takuro also suffered physical pain and suffering, injuries to his neck and right hand, and abrasions.”
The lawsuit states, “Defendants’ actions were bias-motivated and deprived plaintiffs of their rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; to equal protection of the laws and to due process of law; to be free from the use of excessive and/or arbitrary force; to be free from unreasonable, summary punishment; and to personal liberty, freedom of movement, and familial association, all guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial and are seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys’ fees.
The SFPD and the City Attorney’s Office have yet to respond to the lawsuit.