Oregon jury awards man more than $3 million after officer accused him of trying to steal a car

SALEM, Oregon (AP) — A jury in Oregon has awarded a man more than $3.1 million after a police officer accused him of trying to steal a car he was fixing and allegedly used excessive force when arresting him.

That jury award included more than $2 million in punitive damages to Christopher Garza for false arrest, battery and the use of excessive force in the 2021 incident at a tire store in Salem.

Garza alleged in the lawsuit that on Sept. 17, 2021, Salem Officer David Baker grabbed him, shoved him onto the roof of his police car and handcuffed him with no justification for his arrest.

“Well, I feel vindicated,” Garza told Portland television station KGW-TV. “I feel good that justice has prevailed.

Trevor Smith, a spokesperson for Salem, said in an email Monday to The Associated Press that the city was evaluating the jury's decision and had no comment.

Garza, a barber, lives next to the tire shop. He was with two other men and working on a car when Baker arrived and accused him of trying to steal the vehicle, according to the lawsuit. Garza said he suffered injuries to his neck, chest, wrists and left hand. He said he also underwent shoulder surgery for injuries suffered during the arrest, and that he thinks they might not fully heal.

“I went through one surgery, and I need another surgery,” Garza said. “My arm probably won’t work the same ever again.”