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Santa Monica Police Accused Of Using Excessive Force On Man Charging His Electric Car

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A man arrested by Santa Monica Police is accusing officers of using excessive force after he says he suffered a concussion and was pepper sprayed for charging his car in a public park.

Justin Palmer was arrested on the evening of April 21 in Santa Monica's Virginia Avenue Park by SMPD officers, and he says the police told him he had to leave because the park was closed. However the police record shows that Palmer was arrested at 10:56 p.m., four minutes before the park closes at 11 p.m. "I couldn't believe that this happened over me just trying to plug in my car," Palmer told NBC 4.

The 36-year old father of four says he had to charge his electric car in the park because he couldn't do it at his apartment, a few blocks away. When an officer approached him and asked for his ID, Palmer refused and asked why he was being singled out among other people also at the park. He said that's when the police threw him to the ground. "He swept my legs and held my arm and threw me to the ground," said Palmer. "I hit my head on the ground and blacked out."

Palmer says he suffered a concussion and was also pepper sprayed. A bystander took a video on a cell phone (later uploaded to Facebook), and in the clip Palmer can be seen on the ground and surrounded by officers, saying his glasses were broken and asking why he was being arrested.

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Stop the InjusticeFather of 4 tries to charge electric car and gets beat up by police, pepper sprayed & arrested.

Posted by Christine Gonzales-Palmer on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Although he spent the night in jail, he received a letter from the City Attorney of Santa Monica saying that no criminal charges would be filed. "That's how obvious it was my client didn't do anything wrong," said Palmer's attorney Justin Sanders.

Electric car owners told NBC 4 that the Virginia Avenue Park was a popular spot to charge their cars after hours. "[I]f you don't have a charger at home or a way to charge where you live or at work, this is the next thing," one told the station.

Former Santa Monica city councilman Kelly Olsen, who spearheaded the alternative fuel program in the city, says the city should allow people in the park after dark as a matter of principle and public safety. "People have been using this for years and years and there's never been any issue, and I don't think that the police should be enforcing this law," said Olsen.

Palmer filed suit against the city of Santa Monica on Friday, claiming the police used excessive force. He says he was afraid to reach into his car to show his ID due to recent incidents where men have been killed by the police.

After the incident the Santa Monica Police released a report saying Palmer was resisting arrest. A spokesman for the SMPD said a review of the incident showed officers acted within policy.

Palmer says he still hasn't been able to return to work after suffering injuries from the incident.

"They are taking advantage of their position and taking advantage of their power," he said.