A chest surgeon’s career was severely impaired when Los Angeles police officers threw him to the ground outside his Brentwood home in 2014, leaving him with a severe injury to his left wrist, his lawyer Monday told a jury tasked with deciding his excessive force lawsuit against the city.
“He will have residual problems for the rest of his life,” attorney Dale Galipo said of Dr. Michael Richman. “This case is about whether the plaintiff suffered an injury and whether it occurred during the incident with the police.”
But Deputy City Attorney Geoffrey Plowden said in his opening statement that the officers, who went to the Bundy Drive residence on a call that Richman may have been contemplating suicide, waited nearly two hours before the doctor complied with demands to come out of the home. He said Richman was never taken to the ground and that his only complaint to officers was that his handcuffs were too tight, prompting them to replace the metal cuffs with a string version.
“No use-of-force report was taken because no excessive force was reported,” Plowden said.
According to Galipo, Richman, 53, not only practiced surgery, but also ran a cholesterol and vein treatment center in which he invested much of his own earnings. On the evening of Aug. 25, 2014, he went to dinner with a girlfriend after working all day, Galipo said.
The two had an argument and the girlfriend left, Galipo said. In a decision the doctor now regrets, he texted a photo of himself pointing a gun toward his chest, Galipo told jurors. The girlfriend then called 911, and that prompted the LAPD to send officers to Richman’s home, according to Galipo.
About 16 officers arrived and most had their guns out, Galipo said. He said his client spoke with a 911 operator and asked that his nurse, Natalie Dizon, be brought to the home.
The LAPD personnel told the doctor to come out of the home or the SWAT team would be sent out and tear gas would be used, Galipo said. After twice coming outside and then going back inside, Richman, concerned about the safety of his pets, left the home for a final time holding his cell phone, Galipo said.
Richman pulled down his medical scrubs to show he was unarmed, but he was thrown to the ground by officers and injured his left wrist while trying to break his fall, Galipo said. He also was handcuffed, Galipo said.
Richman’s left wrist is 100 percent disabled because of the fall and injury, Galipo said.
“No other falls could have caused the injury,” he said.
But Plowden told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that Richman suffered the injury at another time and in another place. He said he wished the LAPD had equipped its officers with body cameras in 2014 because a video would support the claims by those at the scene that the surgeon was handcuffed, but not brought to the ground.
Plowden said the 911 call recorded no claims of pain by Richman. When shown a photo of his non-swollen wrist taken shortly after he was taken to the police station, Richman claimed the image was Photoshopped, Plowden said.
The Daily Mail reported in February 2014 that Nancy Motes, the 37-year-old half-sister to Julia and Eric Roberts, was found dead of a drug overdose at Richman’s home that month.
“He appears to have asked Nancy to look after his pets as he was away all weekend … at the Annual Cardiovascular Prevention Symposium at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach,” according to a DailyMail.com article on Motes’ death.
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