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Ex-Charger set for $1.35 million city payout in police brutality case

Arm twisted with "sufficient torque that it fractured his humerus bone in several places"

Michael Lee depicted on 2016 Chargers custom football card
Michael Lee depicted on 2016 Chargers custom football card

In a little-noticed move, the San Diego city council is set to pay former San Diego Chargers defensive back Michael C. Lee $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Lee charging that he sustained career-ending injuries at the hands of police during a violent Gaslamp Quarter arrest.

The circumstances are recounted in a January 7, 2019 ruling in the case by a federal judge in San Diego.

"On May 28, 2017, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff Michael C. Lee was standing on the sidewalk outside a club in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego," the court wrote, citing Lee's complaint.

"Lee was waiting for a ride from a friend when two police officers approached Lee. Lee asked the officers if he was doing anything wrong, but the officers did not respond. A short time later, the officers again approached Lee, who was still on his cell phone with his friend.

"The officers grabbed Lee, and violently took him to the ground. Once on the ground, Lee's arms were twisted and pulled behind him, causing extreme pain. One of the officers twisted Lee's left arm with sufficient torque that it fractured his humerus bone in several places. Lee was arrested, but the district attorney refused to prosecute."

The violent encounter ended Lee's football career, the document says.

"At the time of the incident, Lee was employed by the San Diego Chargers as a defensive back on the 90-man roster and was hoping to make the team's 53-man roster for the upcoming season.

"As a result of the severity of the injury, and the lengthy recovery period, Lee was released by the Chargers and unable to pursue playing in the National Football League."

Lee sued the city of San Diego in January 2018, alleging that police violated his civil rights, arresting him without probable cause, and committing negligence and battery.

"This was a devastating injury," Michael Marrinan, Lee's attorney, told the Union-Tribune at the time.

"It took 16 screws to repair it."

An October 20, 2020 ruling by Federal Judge Thomas J. Whelan rebuffed the city's efforts to dismiss the case. "Defendants argue summary judgment is warranted against Lee's negligence and battery causes of action.

"Their argument is based on the theory that the force used to detain/arrest Lee was reasonable. Because the Court has found disputed issues of fact preclude a finding that they did not use excessive force, Defendants' argument regarding the negligence and battery causes of action fail."

Now the San Diego city council is on the verge of quietly settling with Lee and ending the case. "The settlement amount of $1,350,000 will be paid from the Public Liability Fund," per an item on the council's so-called consent agenda for Tuesday, April 27.

According to a draft resolution attached to the April 27 agenda, the settlement was approved by a unanimous city council, with District 4's Monica Montgomery Steppe absent, during a March 16 meeting closed to the public.

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Michael Lee depicted on 2016 Chargers custom football card
Michael Lee depicted on 2016 Chargers custom football card

In a little-noticed move, the San Diego city council is set to pay former San Diego Chargers defensive back Michael C. Lee $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Lee charging that he sustained career-ending injuries at the hands of police during a violent Gaslamp Quarter arrest.

The circumstances are recounted in a January 7, 2019 ruling in the case by a federal judge in San Diego.

"On May 28, 2017, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff Michael C. Lee was standing on the sidewalk outside a club in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego," the court wrote, citing Lee's complaint.

"Lee was waiting for a ride from a friend when two police officers approached Lee. Lee asked the officers if he was doing anything wrong, but the officers did not respond. A short time later, the officers again approached Lee, who was still on his cell phone with his friend.

"The officers grabbed Lee, and violently took him to the ground. Once on the ground, Lee's arms were twisted and pulled behind him, causing extreme pain. One of the officers twisted Lee's left arm with sufficient torque that it fractured his humerus bone in several places. Lee was arrested, but the district attorney refused to prosecute."

The violent encounter ended Lee's football career, the document says.

"At the time of the incident, Lee was employed by the San Diego Chargers as a defensive back on the 90-man roster and was hoping to make the team's 53-man roster for the upcoming season.

"As a result of the severity of the injury, and the lengthy recovery period, Lee was released by the Chargers and unable to pursue playing in the National Football League."

Lee sued the city of San Diego in January 2018, alleging that police violated his civil rights, arresting him without probable cause, and committing negligence and battery.

"This was a devastating injury," Michael Marrinan, Lee's attorney, told the Union-Tribune at the time.

"It took 16 screws to repair it."

An October 20, 2020 ruling by Federal Judge Thomas J. Whelan rebuffed the city's efforts to dismiss the case. "Defendants argue summary judgment is warranted against Lee's negligence and battery causes of action.

"Their argument is based on the theory that the force used to detain/arrest Lee was reasonable. Because the Court has found disputed issues of fact preclude a finding that they did not use excessive force, Defendants' argument regarding the negligence and battery causes of action fail."

Now the San Diego city council is on the verge of quietly settling with Lee and ending the case. "The settlement amount of $1,350,000 will be paid from the Public Liability Fund," per an item on the council's so-called consent agenda for Tuesday, April 27.

According to a draft resolution attached to the April 27 agenda, the settlement was approved by a unanimous city council, with District 4's Monica Montgomery Steppe absent, during a March 16 meeting closed to the public.

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8

Disgusting all around. A measly $1.35 million is about what he would have made in one year had he been able to continue up the roster, but now out of our pockets. The city's lawyers got paid more — with our money. And how much are the at-fault officers costing us now in salary and overtime, not to mention in future settlements — again, with our money?

April 26, 2021

To your last 2 words that keep repeating; used as your very last 4 words: there are those San Diego county locals, who, for so long -- have been thinking the same way, against those who move here from other areas. Especially multiple-boundaries.

April 26, 2021

While I prefer to see the police as protectors of us all, and the thin blue line, incidents like this one get to me. What they did to him could have been done to anyone for any reason at any time. The whim of a couple cops led to serious injury, and yet the SDPD seldom sees any fallout from these incidents. The cops walk free--and are likely still employed--and the taxpayers pay. That liability fund isn't free money; those are real dollars that could have been spent repairing SD's disgraceful streets and other public amenities. The city simply cannot afford this sort of thing, meaning it cannot afford the sort of policing that it now has. Sumpin's gotta give, but I don't hold out much hope that it will be for the better.

April 27, 2021

He was probably drunk in public and mouthing off to the police. Over and over and over again.

April 26, 2021

And you say that because? A federal judge decided that the city and cops lacked any sort of defense like that.

April 27, 2021

I wasn't there, and either was a federal judge -- but he was standing outside and the cops asked him to move. If you're at a club, and you want a ride home -- call from INSIDE the club. You know where your ride is coming from, and how long it will take to arrive. Standing outside a club at 2 a.m. (if you've been drinking) is asking for trouble. You can't be drunk in public. It's against the law, and you will be arrested. Do I think police brutality happens when people refuse to comply? Yes, I do. I don't blindly support the police -- there are bad apples in every profession. But all the cases here lately when suspects are getting shot all have one common denominator. REFUSING TO COMPLY WITH THE POLICE. I'm also well aware that a lot of celebrities and athletes think they're ABOVE the law, and they don't have to comply like the rest of us. And a lot of judges are SPORTS FANS.

April 27, 2021

If you're arrested for "public intoxication and resisting arrest" no further explanation is needed. Too many people have no respect for authority, and there are consequences. I hope he learned a valuable lesson. When the police tell you to move, you move.

A "measley $1.35 million" IS about what he would've made in a year. Which sends a strong message how the judge "really feels." He didn't deserve a dime.

People who have no respect for authority have an attitude problem, and chances are they were never taught to respect authority. They'll disrespect their parents, teachers, boss, etc. You'll never get anywhere in life.

April 27, 2021
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
April 28, 2021

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