$575,000 Jury Verdict for Wrongfully Arrested S.F. Cop

After six weeks of trial, our client won a verdict of $575,231 from a San Francisco jury for wrongful arrest, violation of civil rights, and intentional interference with his employment. Our client, Bret Cornell, was an off-duty rookie San Francisco police officer who went jogging after work in Golden Gate Park. Other officers saw him and simply assumed he must be running from them, even though they had never attempted to communicate with him. They chased him, held him at gunpoint, and arrested him. When the defendant officers realized their overzealous conduct snared another cop, not a crook, instead of admitting their mistake, they doubled down and falsely accused him of "delaying" an officer. The court found that charge was wrongful, because it was the defendant officers who were acting unlawfully, not Cornell. Unfortunately, Bret Cornell lost his job because of this false accusation. This verdict vindicates our client, and will allow him to move ahead with a job helping others.

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Related Headlines
  • San Francisco loses last appeal in suit over police trainee’s arrest and treatment
    Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2018

    San Francisco lost a state Supreme Court appeal Wednesday and will have to pay $575,000 in damages, and $2 million in attorney’s fees, to a former police trainee who was arrested at gunpoint while jogging in Golden Gate Park and was fired two days later. ... Cornell, then a recent police academy graduate, was jogging on a park path one morning in July 2010 while off-duty, wearing civilian clothes. Two officers drove up, toward an area where they had made drug arrests, and thought Cornell, whom they didn’t recognize, looked worried and was trying to run away from them, so they called for backup assistance. ...

  • Ex-S.F. cop wins suit against Police Department
    Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2013

    A jury awarded $575,000 on Tuesday to a former San Francisco police officer who had sued the city, saying two colleagues wrongfully arrested him as he jogged in Golden Gate Park, causing him to be fired. Bret Cornell, 30, said he was jogging on a park path on the morning of July 10, 2010, more than two months after he graduated from the academy. He heard a man say, "I will shoot you!" and turned to see a "dark figure" pointing a gun at him, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. Cornell did not realize until later that the man was Officer David Brandt, the suit said, so he continued running until he stumbled, rolled down a hill and saw uniformed Sgt. Wallace Gin and asked him for help. Gin ordered him at gunpoint to hold up his hands, and Cornell complied, the suit said. Cornell said he told the officers, "I'm a cop" and identified witnesses that could confirm that he had been jogging. But the officers arrested him for resisting and seized his duty gun from his parked Ford Bronco, his handcuffs from his pants and his star and police identification, the suit said. Cornell was fired two days later.... After a six-week trial, the jury determined that police did not have a reasonable suspicion to detain Cornell and ordered the city to pay $575,231, said his attorney Michael Haddad. "This is a complete vindication of Bret Cornell, and this just goes to show that nobody's immune from police misconduct, even another police officer," Haddad said.

  • Ex-cop says he was wrongfully arrested in suit
    Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 2011

    A former San Francisco police officer is suing the city in federal court, saying two fellow officers wrongfully arrested him as he was jogging in Golden Gate Park, causing him to be fired from the department. ... "This goes to show that cowboy tactics used by some cops can ensnare the innocent - even another officer," Haddad said. "He's heartbroken, because it was his dream since childhood to be a San Francisco police officer."