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Lawsuit claims use of force involving Taser

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A Glendale man is suing a local police officer who he alleges used excessive force when he used a Taser on him after stopping him for speeding as he was traveling to see his sick father, according to a lawsuit.

Banyamin Keshishian claims he was hospitalized after Glendale Police Officer Steve Kim used a Taser to stun him twice as he was seated in his car during the traffic stop June 3, 2012, according to the lawsuit.

Keshishian alleges he had only been talking to Kim for about four minutes before he was stunned with a Taser and then arrested for reportedly resisting arrest. The charge was later dismissed.

“He’s traumatized by the whole thing,” said attorney Mark Geragos, whose law firm is representing Keshishian.

City attorneys moved the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 19, and which also names Glendale Police Officer Alexis Kang and the city as defendants, from Los Angeles County Superior Court to the U.S. District Court this week because it includes federal claims. The suit asks for unlimited monetary and punitive damages.

“We intend to vigorously defend the case,” City Attorney Michael Garcia said.

Keshishian alleges that he and his wife were traveling in Glendale to visit his ill father when the officers stopped him because they claimed he was speeding.

Kim reportedly clocked his speed on a radar device, which Keshishian asked to see. But Kim refused to let him to see his speed and instructed him to sign a citation, according to Keshishian’s lawsuit.

Keshishian, who remained seated inside his car, reportedly agreed to sign the citation and again requested to see his speed on the radar.

His wife tried to help Keshishian talk to the officers because his English is limited, but the officers allegedly told her to stay out of the situation. 

When Keshishian didn’t immediately sign the citation, he was stunned twice with the Taser, according to the lawsuit.

Keshishian claims he did not refuse to sign the citation. He reportedly didn’t physically or verbally threaten the officers.

The lawsuit alleges Kim didn’t give a verbal warning and failed to reasonably assess the situation before using his Taser.

Keshishian was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest — a charge that was dismissed before it got to court. The dismissal, Geragos said, was the department’s attempt to “cover their tracks.”

Keshishian was hospitalized for “traumatic injuries” from being stunned with 50,000 volts, Geragos said.

It’s not uncommon for Geragos’ law firm to handle cases involving Armenian Americans who are suing Glendale and its police department, he said.

“It sure seems like there is a pattern,” he said, adding that he thinks “there is clearly some targeting.”

According to the lawsuit, Keshishian also believes he was discriminated against because he is of Armenian descent and because Kim didn’t allow his wife to translate for him.

The officers reportedly announced through the police dispatch system that Keshishian was Armenian.

“It seems like every couple of years I gotta sue the city of Glendale to get their police department in line,” Geragos said.

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Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.

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