Officer makes mistake in traffic stop, costs Modesto $100,000
A Modesto police officer’s mistake in detaining a motorist at gunpoint in 2018 because she wrongly believed he was driving a stolen car has cost the city nearly $112,000.
The city paid $82,500 to Modesto resident Christian Rangel and paid $29,150 in legal costs defending itself in the federal civil rights lawsuit Rangel’s attorney filed in May 2019 against the city, alleging false arrest and false imprisonment.
The City Council approved the settlement, and the lawsuit was dismissed in October. Modesto admitted no wrongdoing or liability in settling the case. Rangel is responsible for paying his own attorney’s fees. Rangel was represented by attorney Sanjay Schmidt.
Officer Katherine Blum detained Rangel at gunpoint March 28, 2018, after he had pulled into the parking lot of his parents’ McHenry Avenue business, Gladiator Insurance, where he worked. Blum had been following Rangel after getting an alert from LoJack, the stolen vehicle tracking technology.
LoJack consists of a transmitter hidden in a car that emits a signal, which consists of a code, when the owner reports his car has been stolen. An officer is supposed to call dispatch with the code to obtain information about the stolen car, including its license plate number.
The lawsuit states Blum did not do that. Police Chief Galen Carroll said the officer mistook the LoJack code for the Honda Civic’s license plate number.