On the night of Sept. 17, 2021, Chris Garza was working on a car with two other people at OK Tire of Salem when he was approached by police.
Surveillance video shows Salem police officer David Baker pull into a parking lot, where he asked Garza if he was stealing a vehicle.
From there, Garza said things took a turn for the worse.
“From having a conversation with my friend, within three minutes after that, I was getting beat up and getting tossed around and thrown in the back of the police car for no apparent reason,” he said.
According to court documents, Baker placed Garza in the back of his patrol car before he realized Garza lived in an RV on the property – and worked for the auto shop.
That’s when Garza was released and not charged.
“Why was I getting treated like this? Why was I getting ruffed up? I didn’t do anything wrong,” Garza said, recounting his memory of that night.
Garza went on to sue the City of Salem, alleging that Baker used excessive force on him while he was in handcuffs “to the point of it ripped some tissue in [his] right arm and had to undergo surgery.”
The injury is something he told KOIN 6 he still battles with every day.
“My arm is not the same as it was beforehand,” he said. “I continue to have lots of pain. I struggle to pick the lightest things to put them, like, over my head.”
The suit, filed in May 2022, originally sought $20,000 to cover Garza’s medical costs. More than a year later, a jury ordered the city to pay Garza $3 million.
“I would hope a verdict of this size gets the attention of a lot of people in law enforcement and a lot of people who oversee those who are in law enforcement,” attorney Greg Kafoury said.
Garza said he hopes police think twice before acting and receive better training.
“I just want to see some kind of justice on my behalf for the actions that he has done,” Garza said.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, the City of Salem said it “is evaluating the jury’s decision and has no comment at this time.”