Court dismisses complaint against ports police officer

DISTRICT COURT: The District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands in Gualo Rai, Saipan. Bryan Manabat/For The Guam Daily Post

SAIPAN — Chief Judge Ramona Manglona of the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands has dismissed with prejudice the excessive force complaint against Commonwealth Ports Authority Police Officer Jason Cruz upon the request of the plaintiff, Shanguo Zhang.

Represented by attorney Robert T. Torres, Cruz issued the following statement:

“We stand by the video evidence and facts that on June 15, 2021, when directed to use a face mask Mr. Zhang proceeded to violently strike the Ports Police Office window with a rock. Officer Cruz, then on duty, used reasonable force to subdue and then arrest Mr. Zhang. CPA Officers and personnel are trained not only as to the proper use of force but to be vigilant in ensuring the safety of the airport and seaport patrons. While the agency respects Mr. Zhang’s right to freedom of expression, we believe that he recognized that his actions were criminal and unacceptable in any free society. We appreciate the Court’s decision dismissing the case with prejudice.”

In her order on Friday, Judge Manglona noted that the case was heard on Dec. 1, “wherein Plaintiff, with the assistance of an interpreter, confirmed that he sought to dismiss his claim against the individual Ports Authority officer and wished to appeal the court’s decision regarding the other claims.”

After explaining to Zhang that dismissal with prejudice would prevent him from filing a lawsuit against Cruz on the same set of facts, the judge granted the plaintiff’s request and dismissed with prejudice the remaining claim against Cruz.

The judge also reminded Zhang that appeals have strict deadlines that must be adhered to.

She allowed Zhang to amend his complaint to plead additional facts regarding the previously dismissed claims against other individuals.

But Zhang stated that he did not have additional facts or evidence to provide.

In his complaint, Zhang, who represents himself, asserted 42 U.S.C., Section 1983 claims for false arrest, excessive force and deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendments against local police officers and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government.

A homeless Chinese citizen, Zhang alleged that on Jan. 27, 2020, he was arrested by a police officer “whose identity is not known at this time.”

Zhang said the officer did not give him a written document for his arrest, but he was detained for 94 days.

Then in June 2021, he was again arrested several times at the Saipan airport by police officers stationed there.

Specifically, on June 4, 2021, he said he was arrested by officers Timothy Cruz and Frank Indalecio. On June 10, 2021, he was arrested by Stevie Cabrera and Timothy Cruz. On June 14, 2021, he was arrested by Cabrera.

According to Zhang, for each of these arrests, he did not commit any offense, but the officers arrested him “intentionally to harass (him) and to deprive (him) of (his) rights.”

After each arrest, he was placed in prison for a short period of time and released without being charged.

On June 15, 2021, Zhang threw a rock at a window at the Saipan airport to protest his mistreatment and then presented himself to be arrested.

Zhang said Officer Jason Cruz used force and violently pulled him to the ground even though Zhang was not resisting, resulting in physical injuries to Zhang.

He said officers confiscated his signboards and never returned them to him.

While in prison, Zhang alleged that he was mistreated, assaulted twice and did not receive the medical treatment that he needed including for a fever above 40 degrees Celsius.

Judge Manglona previously dismissed Zhang’s other claims.

She said Zhang failed to state a false arrest claim against Franklin Indalecio, Stevie A. Cabrera, Timothy Cruz and the unidentified John Doe and has failed to allege any facts regarding another ports police officer, Kenneth T. Taitingfong.

He has also failed to state a deliberate indifference claim against any defendants, the judge said.