ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) — The city of Anaheim has agreed to pay $400,000 to a man after he was wrongfully arrested, and his 12-year-old son detained, for allegedly beating an opossum.
Lorenzo Oliver maintains that, on the night he was arrested in March 2008, he and his son were only trying to save the opossum.
"I got it off the property so they could deal with it. That was my whole thinking, from beginning to end, was to save the opossum," Oliver said.
In the lawsuit, the Anaheim resident says their two bulldogs had cornered the animal in their yard.
They placed a basket over the bleeding opossum and pushed it away from the dogs and onto the street.
Amidst all the commotion, at least one neighbor called police saying the father and son were trying to kill the opossum with a shovel.
Oliver said his son only used that shovel to nudge the animal, to see if it was still alive, while they were waiting for animal control officers.
Anaheim police arrested Oliver and held him in jail for four hours and his son was detained inside the police station.
As it so happens, there is no law in California against killing opossums. Officers had no probable cause to arrest Oliver so no criminal charges were filed.
The opossum was euthanized.
"The police had no evidence that plaintiffs did anything more than try to kill the opossum, which they are entitled to do," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said in court documents. "A reasonable officer could not have believed that the arrests were lawful."
The Anaheim City Attorney's office has agreed to a $400,000 settlement, representing $100,000 for each hour Oliver was held in jail, according to his lawyer, Jerry Steering, who will also get a portion of the payout.
Oliver, who didn't want his face shown on camera, said no amount of money will make him feel completely safe again.
"I was getting death threats, I mean, it was horrific," Oliver said. "I was just trying to save the opossum and I started getting persecuted, because everyone thought I was trying to kill the opossum."
Oliver recently received a voicemail where someone said, "Lorenzo, I have a knife. I'm gonna kill your kids."
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