12.29.18 – The Pasadena Star-News –
A jury on Friday ordered a Pasadena policeman to pay $750,000 to a door-to-door salesman who said the off-duty officer pointed a gun at him without justification when he went to the lawman’s Santa Clarita home in 2015 to pitch a security system.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for two hours before finding in favor of 37-year-old Omar Segura of Stevenson Ranch and against 45-year-old Officer Sam Priyamal De Sylva.
“I’m very pleased,” Segura said outside the courtroom. “Justice prevailed. It wasn’t about the money, it was about the truth being exposed.”
Segura, who is still in the field of sales, said he has not experienced anything similar to the 2015 incident since then.
Segura’s lead attorney, Philip Kent Cohen, said the case illustrates what people such as his client have to sometimes endure: “It’s scary what can happen.”
In his final argument, Cohen said the case boiled down to one word.
“The word that kept coming to my mind was arrogance,” Cohen said on behalf of his alarm-system salesman client. “Because it was arrogance that got us here today.”
But attorney Thomas Shaver, representing De Sylva, told jurors the veteran lawman was protecting himself and his family. Shaver said Segura violated a Santa Clarita city ordinance by soliciting after sunset and ignored De Sylva’s orders to leave his home.
“Under this set of circumstances, he (De Sylva) acted quite appropriately,” Shaver told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that was tasked with deciding Segura’s allegations of assault, battery and wrongful detention.
Cohen said being held on the ground at gunpoint for nine minutes will mean a lifetime of emotional distress for Segura.
Shaver said being detained at gunpoint is “a scary thing, there’s no dispute,” but said Segura was to blame for the escalation of events because he did not leave after De Sylva ordered him off of his property.
“This was completely avoidable,” Shaver said. “Mr. Segura did not belong there at the time this happened; it was a violation of the law. He chose to engage knowing … something might get physical.”
Segura went to the officer’s home about 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2015.
Segura said he told De Sylva he had a state-issued license to sell the alarm systems, and he approached the door of the De Sylva home when the officer asked to see the permit.
De Sylva said he reached for his gun from his waistband and aimed it at Segura’s upper body when the salesman entered his home. Segura eventually walked outside and obeyed commands to lie on the ground until sheriff’s deputies arrived, the officer said.
Segura testified he did not know De Sylva was a police officer until he heard him talking to deputies. Segura said he was handcuffed and arrested by deputies, but was not charged with any crime.