Oakland family alleges officers terrorized them at their home

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OAKLAND (BCN) — An Oakland family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Oakland and five police officers, alleging that the family was terrorized when a drunken off-duty officer tried to barge into their home last December in what they thought was a home invasion robbery.

The family also alleges that the troubling incident at their home in the Oakland hills was “followed by an attempted multi-level cover up by the Oakland Police Department.”

The suit, filed by Alameda County probation officer Olga Cortez, her husband Nemesio Cortez and their two children in federal court on Friday, seeks unspecified general, special, punitive and exemplary damages from the city, Lt. Roland Holmgren, and officers Cullen Faeth, Joe Turner, Trevor Stratton and Brian Budgin.

Oakland attorney John Burris, who represents the Cortez family, said Faeth, Turner, Stratton and Budgin were all placed on paid administrative leave during an internal affairs investigation earlier this year but he doesn’t know their current status.

Faeth was charged with two misdemeanor counts of battery and one misdemeanor count of trespassing and is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Nov. 8 for a pretrial hearing in his case.

Holmgren still heads the Police Department’s homicide section and appeared at a recent news conference at police headquarters with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth and top police and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office staff.

Oakland police and city officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit and information about the current status of the officers named in the suit.

The suit says Olga Cortez was getting out of her shower and preparing to go to bed at her family’s home in a “normally quiet Oakland hills neighborhood” at about 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 when her family heard loud banging on their front door, “followed by an irate, intoxicated man trying to force himself into their home.”

When Nemesio Cortez cracked the door open slightly, the man, later identified as Faeth, tried to force his way inside and kicked Cortez in the stomach multiple times when Cortez stopped him, according to the suit.

Faeth also grabbed Olga Cortez so violently that he left fingerprint contusions on both of her arms, the suit alleges.

Nemesio Cortez suffered an aggravated hernia that later required surgery, but with the help of neighbors was able to pin Faeth to the ground until on-duty Oakland police arrived, according to the suit.

Faeth, who was arrested at the scene, smelled of alcohol and had a “glassy eyed, wild stare,” according to the suit.

During the attack, a second man believed to be another off-duty Oakland police officer who still hasn’t been identified, ran out from the family’s backyard and “threatened the family with what appeared to be a
stimulated gun underneath his shirt before fleeing the scene,” the suit alleges.

Oakland police officers returned to the family house twice, at 12:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., in an effort to get Olga and Nemesio Cortez to change their story “to relay the events in a way that would be more favorable
to the man who was arrested,” according to the suit.

Several weeks after the incident, according to the suit, Holmgren told Olga Cortez that the two men who came to her house were officers who mistakenly went there looking for a party.

Cortez told Holmgren that her family felt terrorized and violated but Holmgren “brushed off her concerns and said the officers were just ‘being silly,'” the suit alleges.

The Cortez family was forced to seek professional family counseling and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder “due to the emotional toll of this terrifying ordeal,” according to the lawsuit.

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